A tenant residing in Florida may have certain legal rights when the landlord fails to maintain the premises. Due to the warm and humid climate in South Florida, it is common for tenants to have roof leaks, air conditioning leaks, and pipe bursts all of which introduces water into the property. Water intrusion that is not immediately dried out and treated properly can result in the growth of mold. Mold can typically be visible as discoloration on the walls and ceilings inside the premises. Tenants often tell us that they verbally inform the landlord of these water and mold problems, but, many times, either their landlords fail to respond, or do not wish to spend the money that is required to fix the problems in the proper manner.
How to break a lease because of mold under the Florida landlord and tenant act
Under certain circumstances, Florida's Landlord-Tenant Act requires landlords to maintain minimum housing standards when renting property to tenants. In these circumstances, Florida Statute §83.51 provides that landlords must “maintain the roofs, windows, 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.” In many instances, this includes ensuring that the property is free of water intrusions and free of mold.
Under the law, landlords are not required to make any repairs to the property unless and until the tenant notifies the landlord in writing. Therefore, it is very important that you give the landlord the notice to the address as required in your lease. We recommend that you send the letter to the landlord by certified mail to ensure that it was delivered. It is fine to send the letter in other ways such as e-mail or text in addition to the certified letter. We recommend that you use this form when giving the landlord the written notice. It is very important to be as specific as possible when providing the landlord with written notice. Vague or non-specific notices may not hold up in court. We recommend that you specifically identify which room the mold is located in, and which wall or walls the mold is on. If possible, use directional words such as “north wall” or “east wall” so that there is no confusion as to where the mold is located. It is also wise to also include photographs showing the location of the mold to further explain to the landlord what areas you are complaining about. We, at the Law Offices of Debi Rumph and Tenant's Clinic are available to assist tenants in properly preparing the written notice to cure. Contact us for more information.
What happens next after the tenant delivers the written notice to cure?
After you have given the proper legal notice to the landlord, the landlord has 7 days to make the repairs. It is recommended to insist that your landlords use licensed mold remediation contractors that are fully licensed, bonded and insured. A fully licensed mold remediation contractor will more likely take all necessary measures to ensure that the mold is contained to a certain area by sealing off the contaminated areas. Many times, tenants cannot reside in the premises during the mold remediation process. Therefore, tenants should consider asking the landlord to arrange to pay for alternative housing arrangements during this time. If the landlord has failed to properly remediate the mold during the 7 day period, then the tenant has the legal right to terminate the lease by doing so in writing. Once the tenant has terminated the lease, the tenant is no longer responsible for paying the rent and the landlord must return the tenant's security deposit at least within 30 days of the tenant's noticed move out date, unless the tenant has caused other damage to the property.
 Under some instances, the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows the responsibility of repairs to be transferred to the Tenant. Thus, your specific rights will depend on your circumstances.