EVICTIONS AND REPAIR REQUESTS
Your resident owes you 3 months’ rent and is currently under eviction. The air-conditioning breaks and the resident places a work order. The eviction is almost completed. Must you make the repair? The answer is a simple “yes”. The resident has three unauthorized occupants living in your apartment, and his garbage disposal is broken. Do you need to get it fixed? You bet. The rent delinquency, noncompliance or eviction status has nothing to do with your obligations under the lease and Florida law to maintain the premises and make necessary repairs. No matter how angry you are at the resident or how delinquent the resident may be in rent or other monetary obligations, the manager must proceed as if the resident is completely current and not in violation of any of the lease terms or under eviction.
The Manager’s Obligations
The manager’s obligations are many. Florida Law Section 83.51 clearly states the manager’s obligations, and they must be followed unless specifically excluded in the lease agreement. The lease agreement may add further obligations on the manager, and finally there is the common law implied warranty of habitability.
1. The Manager’s Obligations under the law
83.51 Manager's obligation to maintain premises. (annotated) (1) The manager at all times during the tenancy shall:
As you can see, there is no exception here for evictions or when the resident is in default. The manager’s obligations are “at all times during the tenancy”
- Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; or
All state and local building housing and health codes are included here. These can be obtained by the manager ahead of time, or you can wait until you get an inspection by the DBPR if you are an apartment community and you will surely find out!
- Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes, maintain the roofs, windows, screens, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition… The manager's obligations under this subsection may be altered or modified in writing with respect to a single-family home or duplex.
The above requirements apply to all multi family housing.
2a.Unless otherwise agreed in writing, in addition to the requirements of subsection (1), the manager of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for:
This wording is a bit confusing, but the following obligations apply to apartment communities.
- The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs…
- Locks and keys.
This does not require that the manager re-key after each move-out, but we recommend it.
- The clean and safe condition of common areas.
This is a very serious obligation, especially in light of the “safe condition” requirement.
- Garbage removal and outside receptacles therefore. 5. Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water.
Note that air conditioning is not mentioned here. This is an example in which the lease will govern and/or if there is air conditioning provided, the manager must keep it working. Also, many local building codes do contain provisions requiring central air conditioning or screens on windows.
2b. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, at the commencement of the tenancy of a single-family home or duplex, the manager shall install working smoke detection devices. As used in this paragraph, the term "smoke detection device" means an electrical or battery operated device which detects visible or invisible particles of combustion and which is listed by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., Factory Mutual Laboratories, Inc. or any other nationally recognized testing laboratory using nationally accepted testing standards. (4) The manager is not responsible to the resident under this section for conditions created or caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of the resident, a member of his family, or other person on the premises with his consent.
In the event a resident intentionally or negligently breaks or damages something that would normally be the manager’s obligation, the manager does not need to take action. However, the problem is proving the resident’s actions or negligence. Always document and photograph a repair after it is completed, as some residents will intentionally break something again in an attempt to withhold rent.
Common Repair Requests
Some common requests by a resident during an eviction would be items such as pest infestation problems, plumbing problems, garbage disposal repair, water heater repair, and quite often, air-conditioner repair. We recommend that the items are dealt with immediately, just as you would for any other resident. The property manager or management must completely put out of his or her mind the fact that the resident may be delinquent or under eviction.
The Manager’s Obligations Under the Lease
The manager may have further obligations to the resident for repairs or maintenance under the terms of the lease. We always recommend shifting as much of this as practical, but there will be many situations where the manager is contractually liable to maintain or repair something on the premises, or this liability is implied. An example of this might be a hot tub or pool. While we doubt that either of these are a necessity of life, if they exist on the premises and are not excluded from the manager’s obligations, these items would need to be fixed and put in working condition just like any other item, regardless of the resident’s delinquent rent or eviction status.
The Consequences of Not Making a Repair
The manager may have filed a typical eviction for nonpayment of rent. During the eviction, the resident requests a maintenance issue be attended to. The manager refuses to deal with the problem, and a hearing is set by the court. Even though the manager’s failure to make a repair after an eviction action is filed or after the resident is delinquent should not become a part of the testimony put forth in an eviction trial, this type of thing invariably will come out in court, causing the judge to possibly not look kindly on the manager. The manager may be placed in a position in which he or she will have to explain to the judge why something that was indeed the manager’s obligation was not fixed. If the judge is not satisfied with this reason, the sympathy factor for the resident increases dramatically, and if the resident had other repair or maintenance issues prior to the eviction which he or she is using as an eviction defense as the reason for rent withholding, the manager will definitely not look good.
Once You Pay the Rent, I Will Make the Repair!
Unfortunately, we hear that managers say this to their residents on occasion. This is probably one of the worst things you can say to a resident, and if a judge knew you did, you would be in some hot water in court. This is clearly not allowed under Florida law.
The Dangerous, Threatening or Belligerent Resident
A resident under eviction or delinquent in rent may be a danger to the manager. Tempers may flare during a repair which could result in a serious altercation involving injury or even death. If necessary, retain the services of the police when going to the rental premises if you feel in any way that you are in danger, and refrain from discussing the eviction or delinquency at all costs.
- The Curable Noncompliance Examined PART 1
- THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE EXAMINED PART 2
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION – WHAT IT IS
- THE WRIT OF POSSESSION AND THE FULL UNIT
- WORK ORDER COMPANY POLICY AND THE LAW