Landlord Retaliation and Tenants' Rights in Florida
Why a Landlord Might Retaliate and What a Tenant Can Do About It
Florida’s landlord-tenant laws protect tenants from retaliation by their landlord. Retaliation is an unlawful attempt to get back at someone for an action that was committed against you. Learn what landlord actions are considered retaliation under the Florida’s law and what a tenant can legally do if a landlord seeks revenge.
7 Tenant Actions That Could Trigger Landlord Retaliation
There are many things a tenant could do that could irritate their landlord. Florida’s law focuses on some of the most common reasons a landlord may take the serious action of revenge against their tenant.
A tenant must have performed any of the actions listed below in good faith. This means that they did not perform them as a way to retaliate against or otherwise undermine their landlord.
- A tenant has become a member of, has supported or has created a tenant’s union or other organization.
- The tenant has complained to a government or other housing authority about an apparent building, health or safety violation at the property.
- The tenant is a service-member and the tenant has given the landlord the required notice to terminate the rental agreement based on a deployment, a change in station, a release from active duty or any other reason under Section §83.682 of Florida’s landlord tenant law.
- The tenant has pursued another legal right granted to them under Federal law, under Florida’s landlord tenant act, or by the lease agreement itself.
- The tenant has pursued a right granted to them by local or federal fair housing laws.
- The tenant has complained to the landlord or another government or local agency about the landlord’s failure to meet his or her obligations under landlord tenant law.
- The tenant has paid rent to a condo or other homeowners’ association after the organization demanded the tenant pay the rent because the landlord had not done so.
5 Landlord Actions That Could Be Considered Retaliation in Florida
A Florida landlord has a legal right to take certain actions, such as increasing a tenant’s rent. However, if these actions are done with the purpose of seeking revenge against a tenant, the action will be considered an act of retaliation. The landlord could face legal consequences for actions such as the following:
- The landlord increases a tenant’s rent without proper notice or at a higher level than fair market rates for the local market.
- The landlord decreases necessary services to the tenant.
- The landlord files to evict the tenant without any other just cause. This is considered a retaliatory eviction.
- The landlord refuses to make needed repairs that have been requested by the tenant and full under the landlord's responsibility.
- The landlord attempts to harass or intimidate the tenant to get the tenant to leave. Actions could include changing the locks on the tenants’ doors or actually removing the tenant’s possessions from their unit.
Time Frame for Act to Be Considered Retaliation in Florida
Florida’s landlord tenant act does not list an actual period of time for a landlord's action to be considered retaliation. Therefore, the tenant is free to claim retaliation at any time, but it is up to them to find proof to back up this claim. However, usually claims cannot be filed much longer after a lease agreement has been terminated and a tenant has moved to a new residence.
The tenant usually has a better chance of claiming retaliation the closer the landlord's action is to the tenant's action. For example, it may be difficult for a tenant to prove that a landlord who raised a tenant’s rent a year after a tenant joined a tenant’s union committed retaliation. It might be easier for the tenant to prove retaliation if the landlord raised the tenant’s rent one week after the tenant joined the tenant’s union.
Landlord Defense to Act of Retaliation
A landlord can try to disprove a claim of retaliation by showing how he or she was within his or her legal right to take the action. If the landlord is accused of performing a retaliatory eviction, for example, the landlord can show that he or she had “good cause” for filing for the eviction. Good cause could include:
- The tenant had not been paying their rent.
- The tenant had violated the terms of the lease agreement.
- The tenant had not been meeting their required obligations under landlord tenant law.
Tenant Remedies for Retaliation
If a tenant believes that a landlord has retaliated against him or her, the tenant can file legal action against the landlord. The tenant must be able to show proof that they were discriminated against in some way. The tenant must show that the landlord has singled them out and is not following the same procedures for all tenants.
Discriminatory Actions Could Include:
- The amount of rent the tenant is being charged compared to other tenants.
- The services the tenant is receiving compared to other tenants.
- The actions the landlord has taken against the tenant compared to other tenants.
If Landlord Found Guilty of Retaliation:
If the landlord is found to have committed an act of retaliation, the court may award the tenant the ability to stay in the rental if they so choose, the ability to terminate the lease if they so choose, and/or monetary damages.
Florida’s Law on Landlord Retaliation
To view the original text of Florida’s original state statute about landlord retaliation, please consult Florida Statutes Annotated §83.64