I come across many landlords who believe that they are in the right for doing things such as changing the locks on their tenants, shutting of utilities or removing a tenants possessions, because the tenant is behind on rent or for other reasons.
Florida Statute 83.67 specifically spells out several specific things that a landlord cannot do. The following are some of the specific examples listed in the statute:
– The statute states that a landlord cannot deny their tenant reasonable access to the unit by any means, including, but not limited to, changing the locks. If a tenant is 10 days or 10 months behind on rent, the landlord does not have the right to change the locks on a tenant, thus denying the tenant access to the rental unit.
– The landlord cannot cause the interruption or shut off of any utility service furnished the tenant, including, but not limited to, water, heat, light, electricity, gas, elevator, garbage collection, or refrigeration, whether or not the utility service is under the control of, or payment is made by, the landlord.
– Many times a tenant may be behind on the rent and the landlord has not seen or heard from the tenant for a period of time. At that point, the landlord removes the personal items of a tenant from the rental unit without going through any of proper legal proceedings such as establishing abandonment. Removal of a tenant’s personal items can be a direct violation of the Florida Statutes, and should not be done in any situation unless the landlord is legally entitled to do so.
There are several other issues that the Florida Statute 83.67 directly addresses, but the above are the most common misconceptions that a landlord has. With that said, often the most overlooked part of the statute is section 6. Section 6 affords a tenant â€œactual and consequential damages or 3 months’ rent, whichever is greater, and costs, including attorney’s fees for any violation of Florida Statute 83.67 including the above mentioned items. The last thing that a landlord wants is to pay out money (especially for court costs and attorney fees) to a tenant that owes them rent.
When a landlord rents to a tenant in Florida, the landlord is subject to all the laws of Florida. While it may not seem equitable to a landlord that a tenant can owe several months of back rent and the landlord cannot take matters into their own hands. As discussed above, if a landlord fails to provide a tenant all of the rights afforded to the tenant by Florida law, it can be very costly to the landlord, many times in the thousands of dollars.