According to the state's warranty of habitability, Florida tenants are guaranteed a rental that’s free of any serious hazards or dangerous conditions. If a rental develops a major problem and the landlord fails to take action, a tenant has two options. They can remain in the unit and withhold partial rent until the issue is fixed. Or, if the unit is completely uninhabitable, they can move out and terminate their lease completely.
Landlords must keep rentals free of dangerous conditions
In Florida, the warranty of habitability is established by the state’s Landlord-Tenant Act. The law requires landlords to meet and maintain certain housing standards when renting out property. Among other things, Florida landlords must provide:1
- Pest extermination
- Keys and locks
- Safe and clean conditions for common areas
- Disposal facilities for garbage
- Functioning heat, hot water, and running water
Typically, these are the landlord’s responsibilities, regardless of what it says in the lease. But if a landlord is renting out a single-family home or duplex, they are allowed to make the tenant responsible for some of these repairs. However, the tenant must agree to take on these responsibilities in the written lease.
Tenants can withhold rent if these requirements are not met
If a rental unit develops a serious problem and no longer meets the requirements listed out by Florida law, the landlord is required to fix it. If they refuse or ignore a tenant’s repair request, then the tenant is legally allowed to withhold rent—as long as they follow the process laid out in the law.
The tenant must be paid up on rent at the time of the repair request in order to legally withhold rent, however.
Tenants must notify landlords in writing that they plan to withhold rent
A tenant can’t withhold rent if the landlord hasn’t been notified about the condition of the rental unit.2 The notice must be in writing and include the following information:
- A list of the issues that need to be fixed
- The deadline to fix the problem, which is seven days after the landlord receives the notice
- The tenant’s plan to withhold rent if the issues aren’t fixed by the deadline
Many leases contain language about the landlord’s preferred method for written communication. If the tenant doesn’t use that method, the landlord could argue that sufficient notice was not provided.
Landlords have up to seven calendar days to make a repair
Florida law lays out a specific timeline for withholding rent. If the written notice is mailed, it has to be sent at least 12 days before the rent is due. If a tenant delivers the repair request in person with a witness, it only has to be seven days before rent is due.
After receiving the written notice, the landlord has seven days to make repairs.3 If they don’t fix the issue during that time, the tenant can withhold rent. But the tenant must have allowed the landlord to make repairs—by granting repair people access to the property, for instance.4
Tenants should store their withheld rent
Tenants shouldn't just stop paying rent altogether—they should reduce their payment in proportion to how serious the issues are with their rental. Tenants can also request a formal housing inspection to support their case. If the housing inspector identifies one or more serious concerns, a written quote from a repair person or contractor could help support partial withholding. The tenant can continue to reduce the rent by such an amount until the repair is made.
If legal proceedings are initiated, however, the tenant will be responsible for paying any and all past due rent to the court. Tenants should be prepared to deposit all rent in a separate bank account until the legal issues are resolved; if an eviction notice is filed, the rent will be filed with the court.
Rent withholding should only be used in serious cases
Renters shouldn’t make the decision to withhold rent lightly. A landlord might file for eviction on the grounds of nonpayment of rent if a tenant doesn’t pay the full rent amount. If a court decides that the tenant illegally withheld rent, then they could owe legal costs and attorneys’ fees.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
Can’t find your question?
Have a specific question that's not answered in one of our Learn articles? Submit it here and we might be able to create a new article.