Upon signing a lease agreement, both landlord and tenant assume key responsibilities. For instance, tenants must pay rent each month. Meanwhile, landlords must ensure that the rental property is safe and habitable. Failure to make the necessary repairs can lead to housing code violations. As a tenant, it’s important to know housing codes and what you need to do if your landlord is in violation of these minimum health and safety standards.
Housing Code Violations: What Does the Law Say?
According to Chapter 83 of the 2019 Florida Statutes, known as the Landlord and Tenant Law, landlords must ensure that their rental units have working plumbing, electricity, heat, HVAC, and running water. If there are issues with these components, it is also the landlord’s responsibility to make and pay for the repairs within 20 days of receiving a written request from the tenant/s.
If the landlord does not take action within that timeframe, tenants can withhold rent or move into temporary housing — the costs of which will be covered by the landlord.
Landlords also cannot include lease provisions that waive the implied warranty of habitability not can they retaliate against clients who request for habitability repairs. If landlords fail to address housing or building code violations, they face punishment in accordance with the law.
What Are the Most Common Housing Code Violations by Landlords?
Here are the top rental code violations that your landlord may be guilty of:
1. Lack of Hot Water
To make a rental property habitable, there must be a reasonable amount of hot water supplied at reasonable times. Landlords must ensure that the property has a water heating facility and that is properly maintained. If not, it is considered a residential building code violation. Other plumbing-related violations include improper installation and venting of hot water heaters because they can become massive safety hazards.
2. Electrical Problems
A habitable rental unit must have adequate electrical outlets and light fixtures. Electrical-related housing code violations include broken light switches, faulty outlets, and missing cover plates.
It is a landlord’s responsibility to maintain electrical components for the safety of the tenant. Failure to address these problems can lead to shocks, accidents, burns, or fires that could affect the entire property.
3. Lack of Heat During Winter
In Florida, landlords must ensure that there is proper heating in the winter. Nevertheless, they must ensure that the HVAC is working properly throughout the seasons. If not, the tenant has a right to request repairs related to heat, especially during colder times of the year.
4. Unsafe Stairs and Handrails
Landlords must ensure that stairs and handrails are safe for tenants to use. If not properly maintained, tenants can slip or fall. These types of accidents can lead to massive injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord damage, internal bleeding, and broken bones. Not only will landlords have to deal with housing code violations but they may also face liability suits.
5. Lack of Adequate Ventilation in Bathrooms
The bathrooms in a habitable rental property must have adequate ventilation by means of a window or at the very least, an exhaust fan. The lack of ventilation can lead to moisture problems, which will encourage the growth of mold and mildew. This is one of the major building violations because exposure to mold and mildew can lead to severe health issues.
6. Broken or Missing Screens on Vents, Crawl Spaces, and Attic Eaves
Screens on vents, crawl spaces, or attic eaves are crucial as they prevent pests from entering your rental property. If these screens are broken or missing, pests can easily invade your home. They can cause diseases, property damage, and other structural issues. Landlords must fix the screens or seal holes where pests may enter.
7. Broken Windows and/or Doors
Landlords must ensure that all windows and doors are working properly. The windows and doors should be opened and closed easily, and all locks on exterior doors must work properly to ensure your safety.
Landlords must seal cracks and holes to provide weatherproofing and to prevent pests from entering the rental property.
How to Report Landlord to Housing Authority
Landlords have a duty to provide tenants with a safe and habitable environment. If your landlord is in violation of housing codes, you must know which steps to take to protect your health and safety. This includes knowing how to report your landlord for negligence in case there are housing code violations that pose an immediate threat to your safety.
Here are the steps you should take when reporting housing code violations:
1. Notify Your Landlord
If there are housing code violations in your rental property, start by submitting a written request for repairs. In case there are any issues moving forward, make sure to take pictures and keep documentation related to the housing code violations.
2. Give Your Landlord a Chance to Make Repairs
In Florida, landlords have up to 30 days to respond to your request for repair—unless the issue poses an immediate threat to you or the other tenants. In some cases, tenants may be the ones to pursue the necessary repairs and the costs will be deducted from your monthly rent.
If so, make sure to keep a copy of all your expenses. However, if the landlord does not respond to your request for repair or any other attempts to communicate, you can then escalate the issue.
3. Schedule an Inspection
If your landlord does not address the code violations, it’s time to contact the housing authority and ask for an inspection. If you are not sure who or where to call, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a list of housing authorities for the state of Florida.
During the inspection, make sure to show all the housing code violations clearly. Have the inspector write down all the cold violations. You may also ask for a signed copy of the inspection report.
4. Landlord Receives Notice of Repairs
The housing authority will then send a notice of repair to your landlord. The landlord will be given a fixed timeframe wherein he must complete all the necessary repairs. The landlord may receive a fine if the issues are not addressed within that timeframe.
If the landlord still fails to correct the issue, the housing authority may proceed with further action. For instance, depending on the code violations, fines may be converted to liens on the property or the landlord may face criminal prosecution.
If the building code violations pose an immediate threat to the residents, the housing authority has the authority to close the building.
5. Potential Actions for Tenants
Aside from withholding rent, tenants have other options for dealing with housing code violations.
For instance, housing code violations are a violation of the lease agreement. Thus, a tenant can use this to break the lease and move out of the rental property.
If the code violations lead to severe issues or injuries, the tenant may also decide to pursue a lawsuit against the landlord.
How to Maintain a Good Landlord-Tenant Relationship
Landlords have powers to deal with tenants who do not pay rent, damage property, or cause other issues. Just the same, tenants have the right to demand a safe and habitable environment from their landlords. To keep residents happy, landlords must be able to perform necessary repairs to avoid housing code violations. When both parties fulfill their responsibilities, it’s possible to develop a good landlord-tenant relationship.
Landlords who need assistance, especially when dealing with maintenance and repairs, should consider the benefits of hiring a property management company. Florida Property Management has an online directory for property management companies, HOA management companies, and real estate agents. Search by city or zip code to find the best company for your needs.
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