Your Florida Landlord shuts off all utilities and locks you out, what do you do next? The relationship between a Landlord and a Tenant is defined in the Florida Statutes, Chapter 83, Part II. Under the Florida Statutes, there are only three (3) ways a Landlord can regain possession of the property:
a) the Tenant abandons the property by not living there for a period of time without notifying the Landlord or by not paying rent;
b) the Tenant voluntarily allows the Landlord to retake possession of the property; or
c) the Landlord files an eviction action in the County Court.
In Florida, it is illegal for a Landlord to use any self-help measures. Self-help is defined as the Landlord taking proactive or retaliatory measures to regain possession of the premises. Proactive measures include shutting off the utilities and changing the locks that prohibit the Tenant from entering the premises.
Florida Statute 83.67 clearly prohibits the Landlord from causing, either directly or indirectly, the interruption of any utility service to the Tenant, including heat and refrigeration or changing the locks, but has been interpreted by the courts as prohibiting the removal of any amenity that was part of the original lease that will impair the Tenant’s habitation.
The only remedies available to a Landlord is to initiate an Eviction action. If a Landlord violates this statute and tries to force the Tenant to leave without going through the Court, the Tenant is entitled to actual and consequential damages or 3 months rent, whichever is greater. The Tenant is also allowed to recover costs and attorney’s fees. Another remedy available for a Tenant is injunctive relief. An injunction is a Court order that tells someone to do something or prohibits someone from doing something. In a Landlord/Tenant scenario, an injunction could turn the utilities back on or change the locks to allow the Tenant to enter the property.
The Law Office of Ryan S. Shipp, PLLC represents numerous Landlords and Tenants and knows the in’s and outs of the Florida Statutes and the Florida court system. If you’re a Tenant that is renting from a Landlord that is making your life miserable by means of self-help, give us a call today at 561.699.0399. The Law Office of Ryan S. Shipp, PLLC is also available for walk-ins. Our office is conveniently located located at 814 W. Lantana, Rd. Suite 1, Lantana, Florida 33462.