This guide is intended to help landlords know the do's and dont's of renting a property in Florida. Although the information is based upon my experience as a landlord tenant attorney in Orlando, FL, you find it helpful regardless of what state you live in.
DO gather as much information about your prospective tenants as possible.
As a landlord, you need to make sure you gather as much information as possible about your prospective tenants. This information can prove to be valuable both before the move in and after the move out. Before the move in you want to make sure you have researched who it is that you are renting to. Several websites offer inexpensive background checks geared specifically for landlords. Make sure to make copies of identification cards and if possible, get their social security number. In the event that the tenants cause damage beyond what the security deposit can cover, this information can help you locate a tenant in the future. All too often landlords are left footing the bill for damages to their property because they did not collect enough information to be able to locate the tenant after they've moved out.
DO make sure your lease is specific and thorough.
A poorly put together lease can be a landlord or tenant's worst nightmare. Remember, the entire landlord/tenant relationship is structured and guided around what the lease says. A proper lease should be very specific as to what each parties' responsibilities are, and what they are not. It should specify how, and in what form, letters and notices should be delivered between the parties. And it should provide specific terms regarding the duration of the lease, rent installments, or other types of restrictions.
DO NOT resort to "self help."
If you have a tenant who is behind on rent, do not try to take the law into your own hands. Florida has very specific laws in place for dealing with the eviction of a tenant. Florida also has very strict penalties in place for those landlords who resort to "self help." The term "self help" is used to describe a landlord's actions when they resort to changing the locks, cutting off utilities, etc. Your best bet is to find a competent landlord/tenant attorney in your area and speak with them before taking any action on your own. Keep in mind that if you try to file an eviction on your own, and that eviction is dismissed because of an error on your part, you may be liable for the other parties' attorneys' fees.
DO NOT forget to send the tenant notice if you plan on keeping any portion of their security deposit.
Its not uncommon for a landlord to keep a portion, if not all, of a tenant's security deposit to cover the cost of damages or cleaning costs for the property. However, once a tenant moves out of the property the clock starts ticking. Florida provides specific deadlines within which a landlord must return the deposit in full or provide the tenant with notice of their intent to impose a claim on the security deposit. The notice requirements and time-frames provided in Florida law must be complied with in order to avoid the possibility of future litigation.