Landlord and tenant laws can be a complex web of requirements and regulations for Jacksonville real estate investors. There are local, state, and federal laws that pertain to rental housing, and it’s easy to make a legal mistake, especially if you don’t know what those laws are.
We’re fortunate in Jacksonville to be doing business in a relatively landlord-friendly state. There’s no rent control, for example. In fact, the state constitution prohibits any city or county from implementing or enforcing rent control. The eviction process here is a lot faster and less expensive than in other states where there are long waiting periods and requirements for mediation.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to stay ahead of the latest legislative proposals and requirements for landlords and property managers. You have to know what you’re required to do, and you have to know what you’re prohibited from doing. Otherwise, you could find yourself in court or paying an expensive claim.
At Red Rooster Property Management, it’s our job to stay up to date on all the laws and how they impact your property. You don’t have to worry about deadlines for security deposit returns or HOA requirements because we’re here, taking care of each detail.
We do want you to be informed, however, especially if you’re managing a property on your own. Here are some of the most important laws and regulations that all investors in Jacksonville and throughout Florida need to know.
Fair Housing Act and ADA
Florida rental laws include federal laws. The two most important federal laws you need to know are the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also helps to review the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which applies to the way you collect information from applicants and how you notify tenants if they’ve been denied a rental home due to information on their credit report.
Fair housing laws, however, are especially important, and as a real estate investor, you need to put the processes in place that will prevent any potential violation. Most landlords and rental property owners don’t set out to discriminate against people, but the perception can be there in the way you market, lease, and rent out your property.
Fair housing laws make it illegal to discriminate when you’re marketing your property, screening applications, or enforcing your lease with tenants. It’s critical that you’re consistent, and you need documented processes that prove you are treating everyone fairly and equally.
Legally, you cannot make decisions or take actions based on:
- National origin
- Familial Status
The Americans with Disabilities Act is also important for Jacksonville investors to understand. You’re legally required to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. You don’t necessarily have to pay for a wheelchair ramp into a home, for example, but you do need to allow your tenants who need that accommodation to make it.
Service and support animals are a big part of ADA laws, and it’s not always easy to distinguish service animals from companion animals. What’s an emotional support animal versus a therapy dog?
What you really need to know is this: service and support animals are not pets. You can have a pet-free rental property, but you’ll still be required to allow service and support animals. You cannot charge tenants a pet fee or pet rent for those animals. The law does not see them as pets. They’re seen as accommodations.
Jacksonville Security Deposit Laws
Florida law does not limit the amount of money you can collect in a security deposit. However, there are a lot of details that must be considered when we’re talking about the collection and return of a resident’s security deposit.
Here’s what you really have to know about security deposits: While you’re holding that money in case of a lease break or nonpayment of rent or tenant damage, that deposit is not your money. It’s your tenant’s money – you cannot use it during the tenancy and you cannot combine it with your own funds.
You’re required to disclose in writing whether a security deposit will be held in an interest or non-interest bearing account. Other information you have to provide includes:
- The rate and time of interest payments
- The address of the bank where the security deposit is held.
Florida law requires you to provide this information within 30 days of receiving a security deposit. Put this information in your lease agreement.
You also need to hold the security deposit in a Florida bank with a local branch office, even if you live elsewhere. Security deposits do not need to be held in an interest-bearing account, but if they are, interest payments must be made both annually and at the termination of the tenancy. If you offer your tenants a renewal, you should pay interest on or before the one-year anniversary of the lease being executed.
Florida law requires landlords to return a tenant’s security deposit within 15 days of move-out if there are no reasons to deduct money from that deposit. If you do plan to make deductions based on damage, cleaning costs, or past due accounts, you’ll have to return the remaining deposit and a detailed accounting within 30 days.
Understanding Florida Eviction Laws
In Florida, you can evict a tenant for a number of reasons. You can evict if there’s a lease violation they refuse to rectify or if you decide not to renew the lease agreement after the tenancy ends but the tenants refuse to move out. The most common reason for eviction, however, is the nonpayment of rent. When this happens, you need to take a few steps before you go to court and file for an eviction.
The first step is to serve a Three Day Notice to Pay or Quit.
The tenants will have three days to catch up with the rent or leave the property. Hopefully, you’ll receive a full payment before the end of the three days, or the tenants will get in touch to talk about a payment plan. If you do not receive the rent and the tenants continue to occupy the property, the next step is filing eviction paperwork at your county courthouse. The clerk will have a Summons & Complaint served on your tenants, and they’ll have the opportunity to respond.
Either you will receive a default judgment or you’ll have a court date set. Make sure you have all your documentation in hand when you go to court, including your lease agreement, a copy of the Three Day Notice, and the ledger or financial reports that verify what is owed. When you receive a judgment, you’ll be able to get a Writ of Possession and the tenants will be ordered to leave. If they still refuse to vacate the property, the sheriff will be called to remove them physically.
We always recommend you work with an attorney or a Jacksonville property manager when you need to evict a tenant. The steps towards an effective eviction can be extremely nuanced, and you don’t want to waste time or money having to start the process over because a detail was missed.
Habitability Laws in Jacksonville
Owners must keep their rental units in a condition that complies with state and local building and health codes. Even if there is no specific building code that addresses the safety and habitability of the property, owners must ensure the exterior and structural foundation are in good, stable condition.
Check your window screens so you can be sure they are in reasonable condition. Many real estate investors don’t realize that owners are required to repair screen damage once per year.
Routine inspections and good tenant relationships ensure all habitability laws are met and respected.
Landlord’s Right to Enter
In Jacksonville, property owners are not prohibited from entering their rental property to make repairs, conduct inspections, and show the home. However, you must provide notice to your tenants.
Tenants cannot deny you access to the property, but you do have to provide at least 12 hours of notice if you’re going to be at the property for a repair. Twelve hours is the law, but we recommend providing at least 24 or 48 hours of notice when you can.
Jacksonville Lease Agreement Requirements
There are specific things you’ll need to include in your lease agreement to keep it legally compliant and enforceable. Something important to remember is this: each state has its own requirements for what the lease must include. You don’t want to download a template that isn’t specific to Florida. Your Jacksonville property will only be protected when you use a Florida-specific lease.
These are only a few of the most important laws that you need to be aware of when you’re renting out property in Florida. Whether you’re a new landlord or an experienced investor, it’s important that you follow the laws carefully or risk the profitability and operations of your investment properties.
If you’d like to hear more about how we help owners like you stay compliant, we’d love to talk with you. Please contact our team at Red Rooster Property Management.