Disaster Preparedness LL/T - Florida Legal Services, Inc.

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DISASTER PREPAREDNESS LL/T
How to break a lease, after the
hurricane/wildfire/other disasters in Florida.
WHAT TO DO
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Follow standard emergency procedures
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Evacuate when appropriate
Follow the directions of all law enforcement
Prepare in advance for shelter for pets
Prepare in advance for medications and medical
devices
Have a plan for when things fall apart, they will
Have an out of state person who can connect to you if
you are separated from family and loved ones
Stay Safe
FL. STATUTE
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83.63 Casualty damage.--If the premises are
damaged or destroyed other than by the wrongful
or negligent acts of the tenant so that the
enjoyment of the premises is substantially
impaired, the tenant may terminate the rental
agreement and immediately vacate the premises.
The tenant may vacate the part of the premises
rendered unusable by the casualty, in which case
the tenant's liability for rent shall be reduced by
the fair rental value of that part of the premises
damaged or destroyed. If the rental agreement is
terminated, the landlord shall comply with s.
83.49(3) [F.S. 1973].
FL. STATUTE 83.49
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Since the lease is terminated due to no fault of
either party the landlord must treat this like the
end of the lease and
Return the Security Deposit, following normal
procedures, (15 days, or notice in 30 days why
withholding)
 Not unreasonably withhold the Security Deposit
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Given this the tenant will likely have to:
Give a written form of rental termination (7 day
repair or terminate letter) See Forms section
 Only withhold that portion of the rent that is
reasonable based on how much of the property they
are unable to use
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FL. CASES
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Residential Cases
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Grubb et. al. v. Treviso, 966 So. 2d 1000, 2007
Stands for another rule, but it seems to suggest a 50% rule
applies. Meaning that if the premises are damaged 50% or
more then the landlord could simply terminate the lease
rather than repair a given piece of property.
This is replacement cost and the lease in question had an
arbitration clause, however this would make a good
guideline for tenants in evaluating whether they should
terminate. So if the unit is 50% or more damaged, the lease
most likely terminatable.
FL. CASES CONT.
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Kent v. Wood, 235 So.2d 60, 1970 1st DCA
A landlord demanded that a tenant immediately
vacate the property under another section of the law.
 The court held that although the landlord could
require the tenant to vacate under that section of the
law, the landlord must refund the unused rent that
was prepaid to the tenant, because the landlord had
to give at least a 15 day notice.
 The section of the law the landlord used here is no
longer law. So the viability of the case is
questionable.
 The ruling and discussion are well thought out, and
you may be able to get tenants a refund of Security
Deposits and rent money for a portion of the month,
if the landlord terminates the lease.
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FL. CASES CONT.
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Kent v. Wood cont.
Whether you will be able to get a rent refund with an
evacuation order , (aka a Katrina style order
preventing use of the property for an extended period
of time), and no damage is unknown.
 It is also unlikely you will be able to have your tenant
withhold the full rent for a damage amount less than
50%. A lower amount of rent withheld should be
upheld, but it must be properly noticed and a Motion
to Determine Rent is probably needed to defend
eviction.
 The correct place to argue the amount that should be
withheld is the Motion to Determine Rent, since this
is the first hearing in most cases, you will often win
or lose at this stage anyway.
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FL. CASES CONT.
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Grant v. Thornton, 749 So.2d 529, 1999, 2d DCA
The landlord appears to have an affirmative duty to
keep the property in good enough condition that
should a disaster occur the tenant not be injured due
to the property being below building codes.
 Such failure to comply with building codes can act as
prima facie evidence of the landlord’s negligence.
 In this case the tenant suffered damage as a result of
the landlord’s failure to make repairs. The tenant
was burned in a fire. As a result the landlord was
held liable for negligence.
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CONCLUSION
The landlord must keep the property to at least
building codes, failure to do so may result in a
personal injury claim.
 In the case of a 50% or more loss the lease can be
terminated, IF the loss is due to no fault of the
tenant, including negligence. A grease fire is
likely at least negligence on the tenant’s part.
 Either the tenant or the landlord can terminate
with the 7 day letter. The Security Deposit
procedure must be followed.
 You may be able to get back the unused portion
of the rent.
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FORMS
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NOTICE OF INTENT TO WITHHOLD RENT OR TERMINATE THE LEASE AGREEMENT
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Date: ____________________________
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ADDRESS:
______________________________
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______________________________
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______________________________
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TO: _____________________________________________________
Landlord’s Name
RE: ___________________________________________________________________________________
Address of property
Dear Sir/Madam:
This is to inform you that if you do not complete the following repairs within 7 days of this letter I intend to withhold all future rental
payments, or terminate the lease agreement per the terms of the lease section XV A (1). Pursuant to the lease and Florida Statute 83.56 you are
notified that you have seven (7) days from delivery of this written notice specifying your non-compliance to correct the following deficiencies or else I
will refuse to pay rent or terminate the lease:
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_____________________________________________________________________________
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_________________________________________________________________
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_________________________________________________________________
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_________________________________________________________________
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Be advised that pursuant to Florida Statute 83.60 your material non-compliance with this notice and Florida Statute 83.51(1) is a
"complete defense" to an action for possession based on non-payment of rent. Under Florida Statute 83.67 you may not eliminate any utility service
or limit access by a tenant by changing locks or removing doors or other such action, which allows damages of actual or consequential damages or
three months rent which ever is greater and attorney fees, and may also support an action for an injunction.
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Respectfully yours,
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Original furnished to Landlord/Agent on this day of ________, 200_ , by ______________.
FORMS CONT.
Check with your county clerk for small claims
forms, if your program does not use any.
 If your clerk does not have forms consider
modifying the forms available at
http://www.pinellasclerk.org/aspInclude2/SmClai
msPdfs/SC046.pdf.
 There are other forms available from the clerk
you might consider as well.
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