When Do Tenants Have the Right to Withhold Rent?

Unfortunately, most renters understand far too well how it feels to have a landlord who takes advantage of his or her position of power. As the owners of the building in which the tenant lives, the landlord may neglect to provide a safe and livable home environment or try to make a quick extra buck through illegal or unfair rent and security deposit practices. When this occurs, many renters feel helpless, unable to do anything more than complain—an entreaty that will probably fall on deaf ears.

However, that helplessness stems directly from the renters’ all-too-common lack of knowledge of their own rights as a tenant. There are steps renters can take to ensure they have a safe and fairly priced home in which to hang their hat.

In fact, certain landlord-tenant situations in the State of Florida allow for the renter to withhold paying rent until the issue is remedied. This is an extreme measure that can backfire if handled incorrectly, so you should always consult with an attorney who is experienced in landlord-tenant law before taking any action. As such, we remind you that this blog is not intended as legal advice for your specific situation. If you have questions or need help with a tenant dispute, please contact Laurent Law Office to discuss your situation in detail.

As a Florida tenant, you are legally entitled to a habitable home, which means the landlord is obligated to ensure that the structure remains in good repair and meets basic structural, health, and safety standards. If these basic needs are not met, including things like unsafe structural issues, a leaky roof, no plumbing or hot water, or infestations of rodents or insects, the tenant has the right to withhold their rent, but only if they adhere to strict procedures in doing so.

Before taking action, you should have a consultation with Attorney Laurent.  However, on your own, you still can request a housing code inspection from your local housing code authority so they can verify the issue and add weight to your complaint. Before withholding any rent, you must give the landlord 7 days written notice before rent is due of the issue and your intent to withhold rent if it is not fixed.

Make sure you keep a copy of your written notice to be used as proof you fulfilled your legal obligations later as needed. You must also ensure that you are completely up to date on paying rent and you don’t owe any back payments. If you utilized a housing code inspection, include a copy of the report with your written notice to the landlord.

If your landlord still fails to take reasonable actions to remedy the health or safety issue within the written notice period, then you may withhold your rent. However, make sure you do not spend the money. Your landlord may attempt to evict you for non-payment, in which case you will have to respond to the eviction notice and alert the courts of your reasons for withholding rent so you will need to act quickly. The court will ask for the unpaid rent to hold until the case is decided. Luckily, at this point you will have your written notice as proof, and if all procedures were properly followed, Attorney Laurent can help place you in the best position possible.

If you are a renter dealing with a major health or safety issue in your dwelling, you should always consult with Attorney Hegel Laurent before taking action to ensure you are within your rights to withhold your rent, and to ensure that you follow all the required legal procedures. Renters have rights, and the Laurent Law Office will fight to protect them for you.

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Written by LaurentLawOffice


Laurent Law Offices, P.L. is committed to helping renters and landlords alike to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution to any dispute. Attorney Hegel Laurent has been a tenant for the vast majority of his life and he understands the intricacies of Landlord-Tenant law codified in Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes. He received his J.D. from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Law School and he is passionate about representing both those who rent property or those who own rental property.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail.Click here for full disclaimer