Q: My husband and I have decided to buy some residential properties and become landlords. He is going to maintain the properties and collect the rents. My role will be to keep the records and be sure we are operating legally.
We are both very careful about abiding by the laws so I'm very curious about what laws apply to landlords. I especially want to know if I can use security deposits to make other investments. Can you put us in the right direction?
A: The rules that apply to you will come from two sources, statutes passed by the Florida legislature and the legal opinions of judges . By the way, if you are including judges' opinions in your research, be sure to check which court originated the opinion. Florida Supreme Court opinions apply to all courts but District Court of Appeal opinions only apply to the district in which they sit. The same is true of Circuit Court opinion that are only bringing in that circuit and County Court opinions that are only binding in that county.
The laws about landlord tenant relationships are long standing. The nonresidential parts originated in the 1800s and originally applied to all tunnies. A new Landlord-Tenant Act was adopted in Florida in 1973. It is divided into three parts: residential, nonresidential and self-storage tenancies. Nonresidential sections are numbered from 83.001 to 83.251, residential from 83.40 to 83.682, and self-storage from 83.801 to 83.809. You are only interested in the residential portions. You can access these statutes online at wwwStateofFlorida.com
The residential portions do not apply to hotels, motels, rooming houses, condominium owners or medical facilities. You should be primarily interested in how you deal with your prospective and existing tenants. You probably want to understand how to screen perspective tenants legally, how to create a lease, your potential liabilities, and how to handle problems, especially on payment of rent. You are particularly interested in security deposits.
Florida does not have a law limiting the amount of security deposits that you may require. It does have laws about how that money may be handled. All types of deposits, wether for rent, pet damage, or anything else must be kept in a separate bank account "for the benefit of the tenant" unless a surety bond is posted. the account maybe interest bearing but does not have to be but, it may not. be used in any way for your benefit. You cannot even pledge the funds to borrow money. Remember, the funds do not really belong to you.
I congratulate you on conducting research about your new role but you may want to seek the advise of a real estate attorney as you begin our new endeavor.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a Certified Specialist in Real Estate Law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar Street in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.