Legislative Updates Regarding Landlord-Tenant Law

by David Hawthorne, Esq.

Due to the vast nature of the landlord-tenant relationship, it is affected by many areas of law, or more precisely, changes in many areas of law; thereby shaping and molding the interplay between landlords and tenants.

This blog is a synopsis of recent legislation in Florida that does, in fact, impact this relationship.

In Florida, there were three pieces of recent legislation that can potentially affect both landlords and tenants. House Bill 779 (now Florida Statute 83.561), House Bill 305 (now Florida Statute 82.045), and House Bill 71 (modified several existing statutes).




Protecting Tenants in Foreclosure

The basic purpose of House Bill 779, sponsored by Representative Mia Jones, was to protect tenants in a foreclosure action. This Bill (effective date of June 2, 2015), unanimously passed in the House on April 22, 2015, passed in the Senate on April 24, 2015, and was approved by Governor Scott on June 2, 2015.

From 2009–2014, federal law required the purchaser at a foreclosure sale to give a bona fide tenant at least 90 days notice of eviction from a foreclosed house. This new law:

  1. requires a bona fide tenant be given at least 30 days notice before eviction from a foreclosed house
  2. provides a form for the notice
  3. prohibits the purchaser at a foreclosure sale from violating the prohibited practices applicable to residential landlords, and
  4. allows the parties to enter into a new lease

In short, this law reflects the tie between landlord-tenant law and foreclosure law.


Unlawful Detention of Property

The purpose of House Bill 305, sponsored by Representative Shawn Harrison, was to establish an additional remedy for the unlawful detention of residential property. This Bill (effective date of July 1, 2015), passed in the House on April 9, 2015, passed in the Senate on April 22, 2015, and was approved by Governor Scott on June 2, 2015.

Before this law was passed, an owner or rightful resident was required to file an unlawful detainer action to remove an unwanted guest. The new law:

  1. states upon receipt of a sworn affidavit from the owner or rightful resident, which establishes that the unwanted guest is a “transient occupant,” law enforcement may immediately direct the unwanted guest to surrender possession
  2. provides failing to surrender possession at the direction of law enforcement constitutes a criminal trespass, and
  3. outlines a list of factors to aid in determining if an unwanted guest is a “transient occupant” such as:
a. intended occupancy to be temporary
b. resided in property for only a brief period of time
c. pays minimal, if any, rent
d. does not receive mail at the property

This law reflects the interplay between landlord-tenant law and criminal law.


Redefining “Disability”

House Bill 71 (effective date July 1, 2015) was sponsored by Representative Jimmie T. Smith. It unanimously passed the House on March 27, 2015, passed the Senate on April 24, 2015, and was approved by Governor Scott on June 11, 2015.

Generally, its purpose was to: revise the term “individual with a disability;” require a public accommodation to modify its policies to permit the use of a service animal; and make knowingly and willfully misrepresenting oneself as being qualified to use a service animal a second degree misdemeanor. This Bill modified several statutes including 775.082(4)(b); 775.083(1)(e); and 413.08.

While the prior law(s) provided an individual with a disability entitlement to equal access to public accommodations, public employment and housing accommodations, and allowed that to be accomplished by having him/her be accompanied by a trained service animal, the new law(s):

  1. revise the definition of the term “individual with a disability”
  2. define the term “major life activity”
  3. expand the definition of the term “service animal”
  4. require a public accommodation to modify its policies, practices and procedures to permit use of a service animal, and
  5. modify current criminal penalty provisions

This Bill therefore reflects the interplay between landlord-tenant law, criminal law, and disability law.


What Will the Future Hold?

The nature of the landlord-tenant relationship is fluid and a change in one of many different areas of law can effect this relationship. Certainly, it is not unpredictable that other recent changes in the law not mentioned above, such as recent changes with respect to same-sex marriages, will also potentially impact this relationship.

For instance, in North Carolina, the Human Relations Department mediates landlord/tenant disputes and handles about a dozen fair housing claims per year. Will this increase and if so, will it increase dramatically?

And in Michigan, there is no state-wide statute barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment or public accommodation. Therefore, a landlord may not have to rent to gays or lesbians; or a restaurant could deny service, unless there is a local ordinance to the contrary.

In conclusion, legislators both state and federal can affect the rights and duties of landlords and tenants by making changes to laws other than those specific to Chapter 83 Florida Statutes consisting of the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, the Self-storage Facility Act, and statutes related to commercial property.

Originally published at SES

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