There are as many rentals in Florida as there are evictions. You may wonder why that is the case? Although being a landlord is a for-profit venture, one of the main reasons for evicting a tenant is for non-payment of rent. Even when an eviction action is filed, tenants often file voluminous responses alleging wrongdoing on the part of the landlord as a reason why they should occupy the leased premises rent-free or at a reduced rate.
Although the Florida Statutes enumerate the obligations that both the landlords and the tenants have to perform in a residential tenancy and outline the procedures for both the landlords and the tenants to follow in enforcing the terms of either a written lease or the statutory provisions, as the case may be, that in itself somehow has not curtailed tenant’s defaults and has not reduced the number of evictions that are being filed by the landlords.
Given the high eviction rate, it would be surprising to learn how most tenancies do start on a happy note. So why the defaults and the evictions? Generally, it is either the absence of a written agreement or, where there is a written lease in place, it is the presence of contradictory, ambiguous or overly broad lease provisions what ultimately causes tenant dissatisfaction that eventually leads to defaults and costly evictions.
Although in Florida you may have a verbal agreement where the Florida Statutes would control the terms of the tenancy, it is best to have a written agreement that would clearly allocate the parties’ rights and responsibilities and reduce the likelihood of a dispute arising sometime in the future due to confusion or misunderstanding on the part of the tenant.
After all, a lease is a contract and, as such, the landlord may include provisions that will ensure tenant compliance or, in the event of a default, a successful eviction. Additionally, since the Florida Statutes do contain certain ambiguities, a detailed written agreement is a must for a rewarding tenancy. A landlord should not leave anything to interpretation, thereby risking the Court deciding an ambiguity in favor of a tenant.
However, verbal agreements and ambiguous leases are not the only causes of tenant’s defaults and landlord’s evictions. Landlords forgetting how a landlord-tenant relationship is a business relationship is also a significant factor in tenant’s defaults. Landlords are not their tenant’s friend and though landlords sometimes befriend their tenants and want to help a tenant who might have fallen on hard times, it is best to maintain a cordial yet a business relationship where strict compliance with the lease provisions and/or the Florida Statutes would always be expected from a tenant.
Where landlords choose to befriend their tenant and accommodate their tenant’s life events by allowing their tenant to stay rent free for a certain period of time, by temporarily reducing their tenant’s rent, by accepting late payments or partial payments, such concessions often backfire and lead to costly and protracted evictions. That is the generally the case as the tenant is more likely to take advantage of the friendship and no longer consider their “new friend” their landlord to whom rent must be paid but as someone who they can control and manipulate into accommodating their needs and their “new” expectations.
Landlords must remember that they are not charitable organizations and must remain firm in enforcing the terms of the tenancy. By maintaining a professional relationship and requiring strict compliance with the lease provisions and/or the Florida Statutes, the landlord should have a happier tenant who is aware of his/her expectations and, a compliant, happy tenant generally means a steady income stream, if not an increase in revenue, for the landlord.
Ultimately, if the landlord feels overwhelmed, a landlord should hire a property management company to assist the landlord with the day-to-day operations.