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Can I Withhold Rent for Repairs in Florida?

You can start withholding rent money to get your landlord to make a repair in Florida if you wait seven days after notifying them of the problem.

If you're dealing with a major problem in your rental unit—a hole in the ceiling, maybe, or a constantly overflowing toilet—and your landlord won't fix it, you have a few options. In Florida, you're allowed to withhold some or all of your rent until your landlord makes a repair. Don't take this step lightly, though. If you don't follow the exact steps laid out by state law, your landlord may be able to evict you.

What issues qualify for rent withholding?

Like all states, Florida has a warranty of habitability that's part of any rental agreement—whether or not it's explicitly mentioned in the lease. This warranty requires that properties "comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes."1 If there's an issue with your apartment that violates one of these codes (and therefore the warranty of habitability) then your landlord is legally required to fix it.

What steps should I follow to withhold rent?

Regardless of the nature and severity of the problem, Florida law requires that you notify your landlord of the issue and give them seven days.2 Although the law does not require it, you should send this notice via certified mail so you can have proof of delivery.

If you’re informing your landlord of a very severe problem, you should also include in your letter that unless it’s fixed within seven days, you will terminate the lease. You could also sue for damages above and beyond your security deposit.

How much rent can I withhold?

If, after the seven days, your landlord has still not fixed the problem, you can begin paying a reduced amount to compensate for the uncompleted repair. You have the right to estimate what your think this reduced rent should be, but it’s always best to be reasonable and be able to justify the amount you reduced in the event that your landlord decides to sue for unpaid rent.

What are the possible outcomes of withholding rent?

Following this procedure does not mean your landlord won’t try to evict you. However, under Florida law failure to properly maintain a residence provides “a complete defense to an action for possession based upon nonpayment of rent.”3

To prepare for this outcome, it's a good idea to deposit the difference in rent into an escrow account you set up at a bank. Doing so will provide a safety net in the event that a court determines your reduction was either invalid or too generous in your own favor.

Next steps

Double-check that the issue with your rental is covered by the warranty of habitability. If the issue is really serious, you could consider abandoning your rental completely—a process called "constructive eviction."

[1] Florida Statutes §83.51

[2] Florida Statutes §83.56

[3] Florida Statutes §83.60

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.