St. Petersburg Landlord Attorney
Serving You and The State of Florida
Owning investment properties in Florida can be a great way to build financial stability. However, being a landlord can also come with a fair amount of headaches. Whether you are a commercial or residential landlord, there is a strong possibility that you’ll experience some challenges with your tenants that will require the services of a St. Petersburg landlord attorney.
A seasoned landlord-tenant attorney can put together a proactive strategy to reduce the likelihood that problems will arise, such as by drafting a comprehensive lease to protect your interests. They can also respond to and guide you through any issues that may arise, whether it involves property damage, nonpayment of rent, or another dispute.
Based in St. Petersburg, The Lopez Law Group represents landlords throughout Pinellas County. We offer strategic legal advice to clients and represent them in any legal matters that may arise. Reach out to our law firm to learn more about our services for landlords.
Landlord Rights in Florida
In Florida, landlords have certain rights and duties. First and foremost, landlords have the right to be paid rent by their tenants in exchange for the use of their property. This rent should be paid in accordance with the terms of the lease.
In addition to being paid rent, landlords have the right to have their property returned to them at the end of the lease period in the same condition in which it was received by the tenant. Other than ordinary wear and tear, the property should be returned undamaged. If a tenant does cause damage to the property, then you may be able to keep all or a portion of the security deposit. If the security deposit doesn’t cover the full extent of the damages, then a landlord may even file a lawsuit to recover the additional money.
- Provide a safe, habitable home;
- Make reasonable repairs when necessary;
- Give the tenant possession and use of the property free from interference (although landlords do have a right of reasonable inspection of the premises);
- Not increase rent or decrease services in a discriminatory manner;
- Not engage in housing discrimination;
- Not threaten to retaliate against a tenant;
- Not lock a tenant out of the unit or otherwise engage in self-help eviction;
- Shut off utilities;
- Provide written notice to end the rental if the lease does not specify a termination date; and
- Go through a formal court process to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or other issues.
Both landlords and tenants also have an obligation to comply with both federal and state laws.
Even when the parties have a clear well-drafted lease agreement, issues can still arise. In Saint Petersburg, common landlord-tenant disputes include:
- Late payment of rent
- Nonpayment of rent
- Violation of lease, such as by getting a dog when pets are forbidden by the lease
- Maintenance issues
- Property damage
- Unsanctioned tenant renovations to the property
- Noise violations
- Damage to the property
- Unpaid utilities
- Unauthorized guests
These disputes can be an incredible source of frustration. In many cases, they may cost the landlord money, whether through other tenants moving out because of one “bad” tenant or the landlord’s investment losing value because of intentional or unintentional property damage. When these issues arise, the best option is to consult with a Saint Petersburg landlord-tenant lawyer as soon as possible.
When Should You Hire a St. Petersburg Landlord Lawyer?
If you own an investment property that you plan to rent out to tenants in Pinellas County, then you should consult with a lawyer before you start advertising your property. A skilled Saint Petersburg landlord-tenant attorney can advise you of your rights and duties under Florida law, such as how to provide notice to tenants before disposing of their abandoned property.
They can also help you draft a lease and give you general advice about issues like how to screen for tenants in a way that complies with both Florida and federal law. In addition, a Saint Petersburg landlord lawyer can advise you of any local regulations that you must comply with in order to rent out your property as a residential or commercial landlord.
Eviction Attorneys in St. Petersburg Florida
Once you are established as a landlord, you may choose to consult with a lawyer anytime potential legal issues arise. For example, if a tenant hasn’t been paying rent, then you may need to go through the eviction process. It is illegal in Florida to evict a tenant without getting permission from the court and having a law enforcement officer physically remove a tenant from the property.
A Saint Petersburg eviction attorney can guide you through the process, which starts with providing appropriate notice. Depending on the situation, you will need to provide either a notice to cure or to quit. This notice must be in writing.
If the tenant does not vacate the property, you may need to file a lawsuit – known as an action for possession – against them in a Pinellas County court. Whether or not the tenant fights the eviction, you will still need to go to court to obtain an order of possession from the judge. Once this has been issued, the tenant can be legally evicted with the assistance of a law enforcement officer.
Recovering Tenant Damages
Of course, legal advice and assistance may be necessary for other legal matters that may arise. Consider a situation where a tenant has caused more than five thousand dollars worth of damage to your property – and the security deposit was only $1,500. Here, your Saint Petersburg landlord tenant lawyer can file a lawsuit for the outstanding amount of damages. These types of cases are typically filed in small claims court.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Protection
There may also be situations where you need an attorney to defend your own interests. For example, if a tenant or guest is hurt on your property, they may file a personal injury lawsuit against you for their losses. Alternatively, if you have been accused of or are being investigated for housing discrimination, a lawyer can help you resolve the dispute or lawsuit in a favorable way.
Why Should You Hire a Landlord Attorney?
Florida law tends to favor tenants. Even if your tenant is in violation of the lease, isn’t paying rent, or has caused damage to your property, it can be hard to have them removed from your property – or to be made whole again. In these situations, landlords often have difficulty keeping a level head. They may also now be sure of exactly how to handle the matter in compliance with Florida law.
A Saint Petersburg landlord attorney will take on these issues for you to ensure that you aren’t breaking any laws or making the situation worse. They can also help you avoid hefty fines or damage awards for breaking the law in some way. For example, if you are charged with housing discrimination, a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administrative law judge can impose a penalty of $16,000 per violation, plus damages and attorney’s fees. Hiring a lawyer to advise you of your obligations and represent you in these matters can save you money in the long term.
Similarly, improperly evicting a tenant can result in a massive award of damages to the tenant. If a judge finds that you unreasonably and unlawfully evicted a tenant, you could be required to pay 3 times the amount of the tenant’s actual damages or rent in damages.
Ultimately, a Saint Petersburg landlord attorney can save you time and money. Instead of trying to figure out what laws apply to your situation – and gambling that you got it right – your lawyer can provide you with accurate, timely advice on your legal rights and obligations. They can also handle any legal issues that may arise to ensure that it is done properly so that you can avoid fines, large damage awards, or even wasted months of lost rent if the eviction process needs to be started over again.
How The Lopez Law Firm Can Help
Being a landlord can be a good way to earn passive income while building equity in the property in and around Pinellas County, FL. Unfortunately, many issues can arise when you are a landlord, from unruly tenants to allegations of discrimination to unpaid rent to property damage. Our team of Saint Petersburg landlord-tenant lawyers can advocate for your interests.
The Lopez Law Group has substantial experience in all aspects of Florida landlord-tenant law. We work collaboratively with landlords to help find the best solution to various legal issues that may arise. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a member of our team, give us a call at 727-933-0015 or fill out our online contact form.
If My Tenant Violates the Lease, Why Can’t I Just Change the Locks?
Kicking your tenants out seems like it should be legal – after all, it’s your property. However, under Florida law, self-help eviction is illegal. If you want to evict a tenant – even one who isn’t paying rent, who is violating the lease, or who is damaging your property – you will have to go through the formal eviction process.
If you do engage in self-help eviction, it could cost you – a judge may order you to pay triple damages to your tenant (even if they were doing something wrong!). To avoid this result, your best option is to work with a St. Petersburg landlord attorney. In Pinellas County, call The Lopez Law Group to schedule a consultation.
Do I Need a Written Lease Agreement in Florida?
A lease can be either written or oral under Florida law. However, because oral leases are subject to misunderstandings – and may not include all of the necessary terms to protect you – having a written lease is in your best interests as a landlord. An experienced St. Petersburg landlord attorney can help you draft a lease that meets your needs.
A lease should include basic provisions, such as how much rent is, when the rent is due, and any penalties for late or nonpayment of rent. It can and should also contain other terms, such as forbidding pets or overnight guests for more than a certain number of days each month. If you need help creating a customized lease for your rental properties, call The Lopez Law Group to schedule an appointment.
See also: Unlawful Detainer Action in Florida
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What Our Clients Say
Mr. Lopez was a Godsend and really helped me with my situation. Him and the entire firm were very diligent and helped speed the early stages of the process along due to a pressing situation. Throughout my experience working with the firm, they were always responsive and available any time I had a question or wanted to check on the state of affairs. Hopefully I won’t have to recommend Lopez Law Group to my friends or family, but if those unfortunate circumstances arise then there’s only one name I would trust. Thank you again for all your help!
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