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The investor’s guide to Florida real estate laws

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You don’t have to take the Bar Exam to learn about Florida’s real estate laws. Instead, we have compiled some of the most important statutes that you need to know about when investing in Florida real estate

Florida fair housing act

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in home sales, financing, and rentals based on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Florida State Legislature maintains its own version of this law through §§ 760.20-760.60. This statute protects the following classes from housing discrimination:

  • Race: Landlords cannot discriminate based on race when making decisions about tenants or prospective tenants. 
  • Color: Landlords cannot discriminate based on the color of a tenant’s or prospective tenant’s skin. 
  • Religion: Landlords cannot give preferential treatment due to the religion you practice or do not practice. Religion also cannot cause you to not be considered for a property. 
  • National origin: Landlords cannot discriminate based on where a tenant or a prospective tenant is from when making housing decisions. 
  • Sex: Landlords cannot consider the sex of a tenant or prospective tenant when making housing decisions. 
  • Disability: Landlords cannot discriminate based on disability status. A disability includes a physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit one or more major life activities. Some examples of disabilities under this definition include chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, physical handicaps, alcoholism, and HIV or AIDS.
  • Familial status: Landlords cannot discriminate based on familial status. For instance, landlords cannot refuse to sell or rent to families with children or to pregnant women. 

It should be noted that Florida does not protect additional classes such as sexual orientation or marital status from discrimination within this statute. If a tenant or prospective tenant believes that a seller or landlord has violated this statute, they can file a civil lawsuit up to two years after the discriminatory act occurred. 

Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act

The Florida Residential Landlord-Tenant Act or §§ 83.40-​83.683 describes the obligations of both landlord and tenants in the state of Florida. This is a very extensive act, but here are the most important points that you need to know as an investor: 

  • As a landlord, you have the right to receive rent for the use of the property you maintain ownership of. 
  • As a landlord, you also have the right to have your property returned to you in the same condition in which it was received, taking into account normal amounts of wear and tear. 
  • As a landlord, you also have obligations. You are obligated to provide a safe environment that meets state and housing code requirements. You are also required to make reasonable repairs when necessary. 
  • As a landlord, you must respect the tenant’s rights. Tenants have the right of peaceful possession that gives them the right to use the property free from interference. This prohibits landlords from entering the property frequently, at odd hours, or without notice. 
  • Although landlords maintain the right to inspect their property as needed, you must provide reasonable notice to the tenant at least 12 hours beforehand. You also do not have the right to show the property to potential buyers or renters without receiving consent and providing notice to the tenant.
  • As a landlord, you are unable to increase a tenant’s rent or decrease services to a tenant in a discriminatory or retaliatory manner. Retaliation may be presumed if issues arise after a tenant complained about poor housing conditions. 
  • As a landlord, it is unlawful for you to lock the tenant out, intercept or shut off utilities, water, or electric services to the tenant. It is also unlawful for you to remove doors, applicants, or the tenant’s personal property from the home. If you do so, you may be ordered to pay damages to the tenant. 
  • As a landlord, you are required to give the tenant at least 15 days’ notice to end the tenancy if there is no written rental agreement, no time frame stated in the lease, or if the property is being rented on a month-to-month basis. 
  • As a landlord, you are required to match the timeframe given to the tenant for intention to renew the lease. For instance, if the lease states that the tenant has to provide at least 60 days’ notice of intention to vacate the property, you as the landlord have to provide the tenant at least 60 days’ notice that there is no intention to renew the lease. 
  • Both the landlord and the tenant are subject to state and local laws concerning the use and condition of the property. 
  • All of these requirements apply even if there is no formal written lease. You are considered to be in a legal contract if you rent a house, apartment, condominium, or mobile home to another person. 

Florida eviction laws

There are two types of eviction in Florida: evictions for lease violations and eviction for nonpayment. Let’s go over each type in more detail. 

Eviction for lease violations

There are two types of lease violations that need to be considered: curable violations and incurable violations. Curable lease violations give the tenant the opportunity to fix the violation. Some examples of curable lease violations include things like pet violations, parking violations, smoking violations, maintenance violations, etc. When a lease violation occurs, the landlord provides notice to the tenant and gives them seven days to remedy the violation or move out. 

However, if the tenant remedies the violation but then repeats the same violation within a 12-month period, the landlord can then evict the tenant without giving them the opportunity to remedy the violation as it has now become incurable based on §§ 83.56(2)(b)

Incurable lease violations do not give the tenant any opportunity to fix the violation. This either occurs when the violation cannot be fixed or because it is a repeat violation. At this time, the landlord can give the tenant a seven-day eviction notice forcing them to move out within that time. 

Evictions for nonpayment

As you now know, landlords have the right to collect rent from tenants in exchange for use of their property. If a tenant does not pay the rent as agreed, then the landlord can take action to evict the tenant from the premises. After three days of nonpayment, the landlord can provide a three-day notice to the tenant that gives them another chance to pay the rent or be evicted. 

According to Florida state law, landlords are required to include specific statements and information in the three-day notice. Once the right information has been included, landlords have three options for serving the tenant the three-day notice: 

  • The landlord or agent of the landlord can personally provide the notice to the tenant at the rental property.
  • The landlord can mail a copy of the notice by mail. In this case, the landlord should request a return receipt. 
  • If the landlord is able to provide the notice directly to the tenant, then they can post the three-day notice at the rental property in a conspicuous place. 

Eviction lawsuits

If the tenant does not pay the rent or move out within the three-day time period, then the landlord has to file a summons and complaint with the county court in order to gain possession of the property. From there, the landlord has to win their eviction case in court before an officer of the law can legally take possession of the property. During this time, the landlord must not attempt to take possession of the property on their own accord by changing the locks or shutting off the utilities. Instead, it all has to be handled by the courts. 

Florida adverse possession laws

Adverse possession sounds like an investor’s nightmare, which is why it’s so important to understand what these laws are and how they work. Adverse possession allows a possessor to acquire the title to a property without prior ownership. In order for this to occur, several conditions need to be met: 

  • Timeframe: A possessor must occupy the property in question for at least seven years. 
  • Hostility: A possessor must either be aware that they are trespassing on the property or have made a reasonable mistake. 
  • Actual possession: A possessor must exercise actual possession of the property by being physically present and treating the property as their own. 
  • Open and notorious possession: A possessor must not be using the property in secret and instead has to be open and notorious. 
  • Exclusive and continuous possession: A possessor may not share the property with others and must be in possession of the property continuously for seven years. 
  • Improvement: A possessor must be actively improving, cultivating, or protecting the property in question. 

Although adverse possession is a tiny loophole, it still does happen with devastating effects and is something that you should know about if you’re investing in real estate in the state of Florida. 

Florida security deposit laws

Florida has laws that dictate the handling of security deposits for rental properties. Although Florida does not have any laws limiting the amount that a landlord can charge for a security deposit, there are laws that govern how security deposits are handled and returned by landlords. 

Landlords must hold the total security deposit amount in a separate non-interest-bearing account in a Florida banking institution and must not commingle the fund with any other funds of the landlord. 

After the lease has ended and the tenant has moved out of the property, if the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit, the landlord has 15 days to return the security deposit. However, if the landlord intends to impose a claim on the security deposit then they have 30 days to provide the tenant with written notice of this intention and the reasoning behind it. 

If the landlord fails to provide this notice within the 30-day timeframe, they are no longer able to impose a claim on the security deposit. That being said, the landlord is still able to file an additional action for damages after the deposit has been returned. 

After receiving the notice of intent to impose a claim on the security deposit, the tenant then has 15 days to object to the claim, after which time the landlord may deduct the claim amount from the security deposit. From there, the landlord must then remit the remaining balance of the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days. 

Florida homestead laws

Florida homestead laws are well-known for their breadth and generosity. Specifically, the Florida homestead exemption allows residents to reduce the taxable value of their homes by up to $50,000. Florida homestead exemptions also protect these properties from a judgment creditor. This means that judgment creditors cannot attach a lien on a Florida homestead if money is owed on a judgment. 

Many people are somewhat aware of these laws and hope to take advantage of them while living in the Florida sunshine. However, these laws are generally not beneficial to investors as they only apply to those who maintain property within the state of Florida as their primary and permanent residence. 

Wrap up on Florida real estate laws

This was just a brief overview of a few important Florida laws that relate to real estate. Unless you’re a lawyer or experienced real estate expert, you could spend hours pouring through the Florida state statutes and still be left confused. This is why it’s so important to work with real estate attorneys and experienced Florida real estate professionals like those at Vaster Capital when investing in the state of Florida. 

The information provided on this does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.

 

Sources:

Know Your Rights Under Florida's Fair Housing Laws | The Spruce

Rights and Duties of Tenants and Landlords | The Florida Bar

Florida Homestead Laws | FindLaw