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Oral vs Written Leases
Oral leases (verbal agreements) for up to a year are valid in Florida. However, oral leases are vulnerable to extra complications and confusion. If there is no specific agreement as to the length of time, an oral lease is defined by how often rent is due. The most common example is a verbal agreement for rent that is due monthly. In that case, there is a month-to-month tenancy that continues until either party gives at least 15 days’ advance written notice to terminate the tenancy at the end of a month. A written lease has the ability to better secure a meeting of the minds and an understanding of terms. A written lease should be drafted to address the needs of the particular parties and property involved.
Notices and Forms
Whether the lease is oral or written, Florida law generally requires written notice before landlords and tenants take action against each other. A landlord is generally required to give written notice to the tenant before terminating a tenancy, filing an eviction case, keeping the tenant’s security deposit, etc. A tenant is generally required to give written notice to the landlord before terminating a tenancy, withholding rent, etc. The Florida Supreme Court has approved some forms for landlord and tenants to use, including a lease and notices to withhold rent or terminate a tenancy for various reasons. The forms are available here [https://www.floridabar.org/public/consumer/consumer004/]. Those forms are a helpful starting point, but landlords and tenants often need legal advice or representation to use the forms properly and/or to tailor the forms to the needs of their individual circumstances.
Self-help Evictions Prohibited
Florida law prohibits self-help evictions. This means a landlord may not take matters into his/her own hands and remove a tenant’s belongings, change the locks, or shut off utility services to get the tenant out. The landlord must go to court to evict a tenant. There are very few exceptions to this rule, and landlords who violate this rule may be sued and may be liable for a tenant’s damages, court costs and attorney’s fees.
Representation in Evictions
Landlords need to know when they must be represented in court, and by whom. The law allows a landlord’s designated property manager to take action on the landlord’s behalf under limited circumstances. A property manager is defined as one who is responsible for the day-to-day management of residential rental property, as evidenced by such factors as responsibility for renting of units, maintenance of the property, and collection of rent. It can be an individual or a management company. A property manager may fill out, sign and deliver a 3-day notice for unpaid rent on behalf of the landlord. A property manager may also fill out, sign and file in court the necessary papers to evict a tenant, but only if
(1) the landlord has given the property manager specific written authorization to do so,
(2) the eviction is for unpaid rent, not other lease violations,
(3) the lawsuit seeks only eviction of the tenant, not recovery of past-due rent, and
(4) the lawsuit is uncontested.
When those conditions are not met, the property manager’s authorization ends, and the landlord must represent him/herself in court or be represented by an attorney. A corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or other legal entity cannot be represented in court by its owner or employee, but must be represented by an attorney. The only exception is in Small Claims Court, and in Duval County and some other counties, eviction cases are not filed in Small Claims Court.
Oral vs Written Leases
You may be charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident, or Hit and Run, if you were involved in any type of collision and did not stay for help to arrive. Florida Statute 316.027 makes it a criminal violation to cause an accident resulting in damage to person or property, and to leave the crash area without providing contact information in the event of property damage or rendering aid in the event of injury. You may be charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident, or Hit and Run, if you were involved in any type of collision and did not stay for help to arrive. Florida Statute 316.027 makes it a criminal violation to cause an accident resulting in damage to person or property, and to leave the crash area without providing contact information in the event of property damage or rendering aid in the event of injury.
You can be charged with Leaving the Scene:
- With Property Damage
- Punishable by up to 60 days in jail, 6 months of probation, and a $500 fine
- Involving Injury
- Punishable by up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, license revocation for 3 years, and a $5,000 fine•
- Involving Serious Injury, or
- Punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, license for 3 years, and a $10,000 fine•
- Involving Death
- Punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, license revocation for 3 years, and a $10,000 fine
In order to be charged with Leaving the Scene, you must know there is an accident in the first place. For example; a person could hit a pedestrian on a dark road and leave thinking it was a deer that ran away. That person likely is not guilty of leaving the scene because the driver did not know there was an injured person. Further, an attorney may be able to defend you by arguing that you rendered sufficient aid or that you did not cause the injury. Let an attorney craft your defense and negotiate on your behalf. Leaving the Scene of an Accident is a serious charge that should not be handled without adequate representation.
Basic Maintenance Obligations of Landlords and Tenants
The following basic maintenance obligations are imposed by Florida law. If there is a binding written lease, then the extra obligations imposed by the lease also apply to the parties.
- A landlord must comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; or Where there are no applicable building, housing, or health codes, a landlord must:
- maintain the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition
- ensure that screens are installed in reasonable condition at commencement of the tenancy, and then, if/when necessary, repair damage to the screens at least annually.
- Unless otherwise agreed in a written lease, in addition to the requirements above, a landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex must make reasonable provisions for:Unless otherwise agreed in a written lease, in addition to the requirements above, a landlord of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex must make reasonable provisions for:
- the extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs
- locks and keys
- the clean and safe condition of common areas
- garbage removal and outside receptacles
- functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water
- Unless otherwise agreed in a written lease, at the commencement of a tenancy in a single-family home or duplex, a landlord must install working smoke detection devices.
- Comply with applicable building, housing, and health codes
- Keep the part(s) of the premises that he/she occupies and uses clean and sanitary
- Remove garbage from tenant’s dwelling unit in a clean and sanitary manner
- Keep all plumbing fixtures clean and sanitary and in repair
- Use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner
- Not destroy, damage, or deface the property, nor permit any guest to do so and
- Not unreasonably disturb neighbors or commit a breach of the peace, nor permit any guest to do so.
Criminal defense attorney David S. Cronin has represented thousands of clients in cases ranging from misdemeanor assault to major felony offenses. David Cronin has been practicing law throughout Florida for two decades – working directly with people who are facing harsh penalties for mistakes they wish they could undo.
Hire an attorney who understands your situation and will fight not only to reduce your penalties, but also to uphold your rights.
The Law office of David S. Cronin defends in Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. John’s counties.
3103 North Main Street Jacksonville, Florida 32206
Saturday & Sunday: By Appointment Only
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