Renting or leasing a commercial or residential space involves expectations for the landlord and occupant. Such details as cost, when rent is due, and other conditions are in a lease agreement, but it will also have conditions like the space’s habitability, which must follow state and local housing codes.
Suppose the landlord is not compliant with the habitability standards and does not reasonably attempt to address the renter’s request for repairs or improvements within seven days of receiving the request via letter. In that case, the renter can terminate the contract or sue the landlord for material noncompliance. Conversely, the landlord may alter the agreement, evict the tenant or sue the renter for material noncompliance if they do not meet the terms of the contract.
Habitability standards in Florida
According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the habitability standards include:
- The property must be structurally sound and not pose significant health or safety risks.
- The property music is accessible and provides alternate means of escape if there is a fire.
- The property must be secure.
- The interior air quality should be free of pollutants to the extent that it does not cause illness.
- The water supply must be free of contamination.
- The resident must have adequately functioning sanitary facilities.
- The heating and cooling must be adequate and function properly.
- There must be lights and electricity.
- A living space must have proper appliances for cooking and storing food.
Addressing a habitability problem
While the circumstances will vary, the tenant can typically do the following:
- Make repairs and then deduct the cost from the rent.
- Withhold rent or put rent into an escrow account.
- Get a court order that requires the landlord to make repairs.
- The tenant may file a lawsuit to recover money paid while the space was not habitable.
When a landlord can take action
The tenant may also cause material noncompliance:
- Disturbing the peace to the point where it affects other tenants.
- The tenant has a pet, but the contract forbids that pet.
- The tenant does not follow the maintenance obligations outlined in the contract.
- Unauthorized people are living in or using the property.
- Their personal property occupies publicly shared spaces.
- The tenant uses unauthorized parking.
Not sure what to do?
Rental agreements can be hard to understand, or landlords and tenants may have poor working relationships, so consulting with an attorney who handles real estate law and litigation can be helpful. They can help the client by determining if the issue has legal standing and can even pursue damages if the client is materially impacted.