Listen to WSOS Radio interview attorney Theresa Carli about landlords and tenants rights in St. John's County.

Host:
And good morning! And thanks for joining us this morning! We are going to talk today with Theresa Carli. She is an attorney-at-law with the Heekin Law Firm. They have offices right here in St. John's County and throughout Northeast Florida. They do a lot of work with real estate law and today we're going to talk about landlords and tenants. Probably one of the oldest business relationships in the history of mankind, right?

Theresa:
Yes! There's lots of landlords and tenants in St. John's County.

Host:
I have this image in my mind that, you know, somebody had a cave and they kind of, made up the cave pretty nice. They did their little cave paintings and then decided they wanted to get a bigger cave and then they decided to rent out the old cave. What do you think?

Theresa:
That is a very good analogy of what often happens, yes.

Host:
I'm just thinking that in the history of mankind, it's like, for that long we've had landlords and tenants and it always matches up with, kind of, where you are at a particular stage in life. Right?

Theresa:
Yes, and now with all the foreclosures that have happened in the past, people bought investment properties, as well. So now they're renting those out.

Host:
Yep. Well, it's big business here in St. John's County. Lot of folks that own rental property, lot of people that are having to rent and a lot of people who are renting would like to own some day, so with all that in mind, we asked Theresa Carli to spend some time with us here this morning. We're going to keep playing the music and doing all that kind of stuff that we do here all the time, but we're going to learn a little bit too. So, Theresa, basically, when it comes down to the tenant perspective, what rights do we have? Like, if you're my landlord and you came in and you said, "You know what, I just do not like the fact that he has red hair and you're out of here!" What are my rights to say, you know, "No, I'm not!"?

Theresa:
Well, it's important to remember that at the end of the day, a lease is nothing more than a contract. So both parties are always bound by the terms of the contract, first and foremost. And then the second thing that people need to remember is that we have something called a Landlord Tenant Act and it governs the entire State of Florida and if you'd like to look at it, it's Chapter 83 in the Florida Statutes. So between your contract, or your lease, and Chapter 83, both landlord duties and rights and tenant duties and rights are laid out in black and white.

Host:
So once we have that lease agreement it is truly a contract and even though I'm only a renter or a tenant, I mean, I have as much right to that property, apartment, home as the person who owns it.

Theresa:
That's right, you do and you also have duties that come with renting that property as well.

Host:
Okay. Well, we're going to get into more of that and we're going to find out what happens when your deposit is threatened and all that kind of stuff as we continue talking about landlords and tenants this morning with Theresa Carli. She's an attorney at law with the Heekin Law Firm. You can reach them right here in St. John's County at HeekinLaw.com, that's H E E K I N, HeekinLaw.com. We'll be right back!

[Commercial Break]

Host:
And we're back with Theresa Carli. She is an attorney at law with the Heekin Law Firm right here in Northeast Florida with offices here in St. John's County and we appreciate her taking time out of her day. We're talking about landlords and tenants and in the last segment if you were listening to us, we were talking about, you know, the lease, or the ultimate sort of document. But, say you're a landlord and you found out from your neighbor, your old neighbor because you used to live there and you're now renting this place out, that the person you rented to, maybe isn't as clean as you would like or maybe they just play really loud music or maybe they have their car up on blocks in your driveway and you just don't want them there any more. Do we have any rights?

Theresa:
As a landlord, you do have a right to do, well, first you have a right usually per the lease to do periodic inspections. So, if you do go into the property and you see there's damage, you have the right to tell the tenant they need to repair such damage. But if the tenant is violating a term of the lease there's certain remedies that can be, or certain steps that can be taken in order to remedy those situations. There's a warning that's called an Opportunity to Cure and then there's a warning that's called, essentially, a Seven Day Notice without an Opportunity to Cure. If the breach is so egregious that it's not something that the tenant can really fix, then you have the right to give them the Seven Day Notice and they have to vacate the property or you can bring an eviction action against them. If it's something that they can cure, like taking their car off blocks, then you put a Seven Day Notice on their door, saying essentially, "Hey, if you don't take your car of blocks, I'm going to have to take legal action against you." And hopefully they'll heed the notice on the door.

Host:
Theresa Carli, once again, that's her voice and she's an attorney at law with the Heekin Law Firm. So, you got my attention too when you were saying that, as a landlord, you have the right to inspect the property that you're, you know, that you're renting out periodically. I guess you have to give notice, right?

Theresa:
You do have to give notice.

Host:
How much notice?

Theresa:
Twenty-four (24) hours is usually considered reasonable notice and it has to be at reasonable hours, you know, nothing at two o'clock in the morning.

Host:
Aww, come on, that would be such a great way to hassle them if you didn't want them living there any more. And then, of course, from the tenant's perspective, typically you have to give a deposit, okay. And I know this does become an issue quite often, where somebody feels like, well, they should have gotten their deposit back because they feel like they left the place in the same condition that they found it. How do you work through those issues and what are some, I guess, what's an example of that issue playing out here in St. John's County?

Theresa:
Well, usually, again, go back to your lease because your lease is going to tell you exactly what parts of your security deposit will definitely be held. Some leases have an automatic cleaning fee, an automatic carpet cleaning fee, those types of things, so those will automatically, most likely, be held at the end of your tenancy. What I see often is that people have pets and they don't realize their pets leave behind dander, smells, because we get used to our own pets smells, but when the landlord comes in and the smell has permeated the carpet, or things like that, or if it's furnished, the furniture. They have to pay a pretty penny to get that smell out and oftentimes that's when charges against the security deposit are imposed.

Host:
There you go. Alright, good information. Hey, we're spending time with Theresa Carli, attorney at law. She's with the Heekin Law Firm. This morning we're talking about tenants and landlords. Man, there's a whole bunch of issues there. We'll be right back.

[Commercial Break]

Host:
And we're back with Theresa Carli. She is an attorney with the Heekin Law Firm. She does a lot of work on real estate law and some other areas as well, but today we've got her talking about tenants and landlords. A very common relationship here in St. John's County and greater St. Augustine. And I would think that from time to time you have seen just about everything, especially when it comes to, you know, arguments over collecting that final deposit, right? We've talked about pet issues, but there's probably other issues too.

Theresa:
Yeah, and one of the biggest issues when dealing with a security deposit is what people consider normal wear and tear. Any tenancy comes with, you know, little nail holes in the wall or perhaps the unit needs to be repainted when somebody vacates and what people don't understand is that often times charges cannot be imposed against a security deposit for, what's called, normal wear and tear. And a lot of landlords unfortunately don't know that and they try to keep money from a security deposit to do general property upkeep that comes with home ownership. And tenants have a right to have their security deposit returned to them.

Host:
Right. It sounds to me too, and this is from what you've been saying this morning in our previous segments, man, the lease document's really important, right? And actually reading it, you know? Because you're saying that some leases may have some conditions in their where, you know, there's going to be a deposit or some money withheld form your deposit automatically for carpet cleaning or for whatever, I would imagine, issues dealing with keys and all, get all mixed in there, as well, so, I know a lot of us just traditionally, just "Where do I sign?".

Theresa:
Yeah and that happens often and often times even if you do read it, if you've been renting a property for one, two, three years, I mean, you forget terms that are in it. And then you move out and you think you have a check for $1500 coming your way and then it just doesn't come and, you're lost, wondering why.

Host:
I guess a lot of our listeners may say, "Well, that's great and Theresa Carli obviously knows what she's talking about, but, alright, fine, I'm trying to collect $1500 security deposit, but by the time I hire Theresa to help me get my security deposit, you know, she's a lawyer and all that, there's not going to be any money left!"

Theresa:
[Laughs] Well, I don't make that kind of money, $1500 an hour would be hefty, but what people need to keep in mind is that if Chapter 83, which is the Chapter that the Landlord Tenant Act is contained in in the Florida Statutes, that actually states that if your security deposit is mishandled and you do have to file a lawsuit, you recuperate your attorney's fees if you are found to be the prevailing party. So, it's not a lost cause, but we try to resolve it before it ever gets to that.

Host:
There you go. All right. Hey, once again, if you know somebody out there who is having an issue with their landlord, maybe it's you, maybe it's a friend of yours, a family member, if they're anywhere here in Northeast Florida, maybe you are a landlord yourself and you're having trouble with your renters or just don't think your lease is the right document in this day and age, obviously Theresa Carli deals with these issues each and every day. She has a ton of experience. Check out the website, HeekinLaw.com, that's HeekinLaw.com. We'll be right back.

[Commercial Break]

Host:
And we're back with Theresa Carli. She's an attorney at law with the Heekin Law Firm. They have offices throughout Northeast Florida, including here in St. John's County. Today we're talking about landlords and tenants, we're talking about a lot of real estate issues this hour on Saturday mornings, but we're gonna try to keep it focused on renters and landlords and from the landlord's perspective, I actually know some folks who rent out some property, here in this part of the world, and they have in the past or fairly recently just got their lease document from Legal Zoom or better yet, I think one of them actually went over to Staples, you know. You ever seen those?

Theresa:
Yes!

Host:
Where the lease is like wrapped in cellophane and you just kind of like, fill in the blanks. So, I'm always of the attitude that that's a little scary. I know it's scary sometimes to think that, you know, maybe an attorney's going to cost a lot of money, but, more often than not, they're not going to cost you a lot and, of course, one screwed up lease is more than going to take care of whatever you are going to save on legal bills, right?

Theresa:
Yeah, if you're not properly protected in your lease, protecting yourself later on down the road is going to end up costing you more money and we have a very air tight lease that we provide for our clients that, the good thing about having somebody write a lease and a real estate attorney write a lease is that I've been on both sides of the table. I've represented tenants and I've represented landlords, so I know, I can play devil's advocate, so to speak, with regards to the contracts that I write because I know where the holes usually lie and how to protect landlords by sealing those holes before it ever gets far enough to be disputed.

Host:
It seems to that here in Florida, and most states, but here in Florida, renters have pretty good rights and if you have some sort of a, you know, a lease that you got from Staples that's wrapped in cellophane, you know, that that could expose you.

Theresa:
It does. It could expose you and it's also important to know that Staples is in every state in the country and it may not be tailored to Florida Law.

Host:
Exactly, and our law is very specific. In other words, State's govern landlord tenant relations, right? So a lease that may have worked for you, maybe you own some property, I actually have a friend like this too, who, they own some property in Ohio and they're probably using the same lease in Florida, when we have different laws, right?

Theresa:
We do, specifically, Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes is the Landlord Tenant Act here in Florida.

Host:
Are we a renter friendly state or a landlord friendly state, in your opinion.

Theresa:
I would say it's tough to be a landlord here in the state of Florida.

Host:
Really? That's interesting really because we're supposed to be viewed as so conservative in most business practices, right? But I've heard that too, that renters have a, sort of a preeminent position in that relationship.

Theresa:
They do. The landlords are under a lot of duties with regards to the provisions in their lease and the remedies they can recover for violations of the lease as well as the handling of the security deposit at the end of a lease.

Host:
Yeah, let's talk a little bit about that before we let you go because we do have folks out there who do own property that are renting it out. The security deposit is sort of that protection. You get some feeling of protection against damaged property and the like, but there are rules relating to that and the collection of that, correct?

Theresa:
There are. There are certain time constraints that the landlord has to comply with with regards to sending notices, with regards to keeping money from the security deposit, and if they don't send those notices in a timely manner, they actually forfeit the entire security deposit.

Host:
Wow. Okay. Well, lots of rules like that and lots of reasons for why you want to get good legal representation on whatever side of the lease that you're on in terms of the renter and the landlord/tenant relationship. You're a landlord and you feel like you could use a little bit of help with lease arrangements or you have a particular troublesome tenant, obviously Theresa Carli and her team would like to help you out. If you're on the other side of the equation and you feel like you've been screwed over on your security deposit, right? You [Theresa] can help those folks.

Theresa:
Yes! Of course!

Host:
And I would imagine that that sort of works out like you kind of represent the renter or the tenant and make an initial phone call and things probably get resolved before they ever go to court, right?

Theresa:
We're usually able to resolve things before it gets that far, yes.

Host:
Okay. Well, it's all good stuff and once again if you know anybody that's having an issue with the landlord/tenant relationship, we encourage you to reach out to Theresa Carli and her team at the Heekin Law Firm, you can go to HeekinLaw.com, here in St. John's County, that's HeekinLaw.com. Theresa Carli, thank you very much for your time and we'll see again next week.

Theresa:
Thank you!

All articles are written by a member of the Heekin Law staff with the intent of providing current and accurate information, but information changes over time. Please do not use this information in lieu of seeking assistance from an attorney. This article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.