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Landlord Rights Watch: Proposed Florida Bill Would Make Negligent Maintenance a Crime

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Under Florida law, landlords owe several legal obligations to their tenants. For example, landlords are required to follow certain building and health codes; they are also required to ensure that their premises are free from unreasonable safety hazards and properly maintained. If a residential or commercial landlord fails to live up to these obligations, they may face civil penalties, either from city, county or state regulators, or in the form of a lawsuit from an affected tenant.

However, now, some Florida politicians are looking to make these penalties far more severe. Indeed, a newly proposed Florida House Bill 1287 would put criminal penalties on negligent landlords. Here, our West Palm Beach landlord-tenant litigation attorneys review this extreme, and surprising, proposed legislation.

Reviewing Florida HB 1287

A landlord’s obligation to maintain their premises is found under Section 83.51 of the Florida state statutes. Florida House Bill 1287 would significantly alter this section of Florida law. Specifically, it would add the following general language:

  • Any person who violates this section would be guilty of a first degree misdemeanor; and
  • Any person who commits multiple violations would be guilty of a third degree felony.

Additionally, HB 1287 would also make it a criminal offense to unlawfully ‘retaliate’ against a tenant. When a tenant complains about a building’s premises, for a rodent infestation, for example, the landlord is legally prohibited from take retaliatory actions simply because a complaint was filed. Currently, unlawful retaliation is a civil violation. However, similar to the negligent maintenance standard, HB 1287 would also make this offense a criminal violation.

Criminal Penalties for a Rodent Infestation?

There are many potential problems with this bill. Not only is it easy to see how this legislation could be abused, but alleged negligent maintenance is, by nature, an extremely complex issue. There are serious concerns with allowing criminal penalties to be brought against a landlord due to something like ‘the slow correction of a pest infestation’. The simple fact is that these type of problems could have many different root causes, many of which are completely outside of the control of landlords.

By no means is this bill guaranteed to become law. It still has a long way to go before it gets all the way through the legislative process. That being said, the fact that it is being proposed means that it must be taken seriously. Landlords need to keep a very close eye on any new developments. Our firm always reviews any new updates to Florida laws.

Get Legal Help Today

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our firm protects the rights and interests of commercial and residential landlords throughout Southeastern Florida. If you are a landlord in need of legal assistance, please contact our team today to set up a free review of your case. Our primary office is located in West Palm Beach, and we are proud to announce that we opened a brand new office in Miami earlier this year.

Resource:

flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/1287/BillText/Filed/PDF

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