As a landlord, you have to mitigate liability by ensuring that your property meets all applicable city, county, state, and national laws. One of the biggest challenges for the do-it-yourself landlord is staying on top of all of these regulations!
One regulation you may not be aware of is the need to have 10 year tamper proof smoke detectors in your rental property.
In 2015, Florida Landlord Tenant Law added language that requires all battery operated smoke detectors to be replaced with 10 year tamper proof batteries. Of course, the lithium battery detectors cost more and can be up to $30 for each detector (versus under $10 for the old kind). They still sell the old 9 volt battery detector at your local home improvement store, however, be advised that this detector does not meet the threshold of Landlord Tenant Law (and likely new building codes, although I am not an expert on following those).
The law dictates if you have to replace the detector, you must replace it with a tamper proof detector.
Battery operated smoke detectors expire every 10 years. Check the date on the back of the detector to make sure the detector is not expired.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are not optional expenses as they are required under the law.
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- What does Florida Landlord Tenant Law say about owners visiting their properties while the home is tenant occupied?
As a local landlord with or without a professional property manager, you may be required to visit your rental property regularly for inspections, maintenance, and showings. You may also just be in the area and inclined to drive by and check up on your tenants. Before you do that, make sure you know and understand your state’s landlord tenant laws.
For those Florida landlords who live close by their rental properties, here are the 2016 Florida Landlord and Tenant Statutes to consider.
“83.53 Landlord’s access to dwelling unit.—
(1) The tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter the dwelling unit from time to time in order to inspect the premises; make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements; supply agreed services; or exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors.
(2) The landlord may enter the dwelling unit at any time for the protection or preservation of the premises. The landlord may enter the dwelling unit upon reasonable notice to the tenant and at a reasonable time for the purpose of repair of the premises. “Reasonable notice” for the purpose of repair is notice given at least 12 hours prior to the entry, and reasonable time for the purpose of repair shall be between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The landlord may enter the dwelling unit when necessary for the further purposes set forth in subsection (1) under any of the following circumstances:
(a) With the consent of the tenant;
(b) In case of emergency;
(c) When the tenant unreasonably withholds consent; or
(d) If the tenant is absent from the premises for a period of time equal to one-half the time for periodic rental payments. If the rent is current and the tenant notifies the landlord of an intended absence, then the landlord may enter only with the consent of the tenant or for the protection or preservation of the premises.
(3) The landlord shall not abuse the right of access nor use it to harass the tenant.”
- Landlord's Access to the Property
The law protects both landlord and tenant and provides the landlord access to the property without violating the privacy of the tenant.
The law allows you to inspect, make repairs, and show the property “from time to time” with reasonable 12 hour advanced notice during reasonable hours even if the tenant refuses to consent. As a landlord, you can give prior reasonable notice and visit your home to routinely inspect how it’s being cared for.
- How should you notify your tenants?
Call your tenant ahead of time to notify them.
If your tenant does not answer, consent, or acknowledge receipt of your message, you should post a notice to the door outlining the time and reason for the visit.
The law does not allow the tenant to refuse entry under normal circumstances as long as reasonable notice is provided. While twelve hour notice is required under the law, best practice is to provide at least next day notice for showings, inspections, etc. If the tenant consents to earlier notice, the landlord is allowed entry under the law.
- In Case of Emergencies
The law does protect you in case of an actual emergency.
Say you own a condo and the HOA calls to yell you water is leaking from your unit. You have tried to contact your tenant and they are not responding but you have left a message. You can legally enter the property (after knocking) with a key to turn the water off. You do not have to wait for the tenant's authorization or post reasonable notice on the premises. Make sure to examine the situation and ensure it is an actual emergency prior to entering! It is always better to get the tenant's authorization prior to entering the property.
If you cannot reach your tenant and are worried about their health or safety, best practice is to call the police for a welfare check on the property. You cannot enter without adequate notice or the tenant's approval.
- Outdoors and Backyards
Keep in mind, you may be held in violation of the law if you are accessing the backyard or any outbuildings, especially if it’s a fenced backyard and/or locked, without prior notification and consent.
Exterior pool or lawn maintenance should be planned in advance or scheduled on a routine basis. Under the law, you cannot show up in the backyard without some sort of advanced notice.
There is a fine line between being proactive with your tenants and offending them and breaking the law! Confronting your tenant with anger or other elevated emotions will only worsen your situation. It’s best to keep cool if you see something you don’t like about your rental property or tenants behavior. You must keep in mind that the tenant is paying rent and you have granted possession under the law to the tenant.
- If you have an issue with your tenant, address it properly.
Provide advanced notice for inspection to the tenant to inspect the situation further. Document your issues properly with photos and a dated written report.
Discuss your issues with your tenant and give them an opportunity to cure the issues. If they don’t, you can provide them with a 7 day notice under the law to cure any lease violations.
Be sure to follow procedures under the law to ensure safety for both your tenant, your property, and yourself.
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