Not all states allow a tenant to withhold rent, even if the landlord does not fulfill his obligations. In Florida, you may be able to withhold rent from your landlord if he fails to do what is required by law. However, there is a legal process you have to follow to do this right.
If your landlord fails to do what the Florida landlord-tenant law requires, you may be able to withhold the rent. For example, if your landlord does not maintain your property to the standards set by the local property maintenance code, Florida law does not allow you to fix it yourself and then deduct the repairs cost from your rent. However, you can withhold rent to get your landlord to fix it.
You should write a letter or make a phone call to complain to your local County Codes Enforcement or Health Department about the problems with your rental unit. An inspector will come to your rental unit. Point out all the problems with your unit, including the major and minor ones. Afterward, you should get a copy of the inspector's report and put it in a safe place. Print another copy to send to the landlord.
Before withholding rent, you have to notify your landlord by certified mail at least seven days before the rent is due. If your landlord does not fix the problem by the date that rent is due, you may withhold rent. In your letter, you should list all the things that are wrong with your rental unit and attach a copy of the inspector's report. Send the letter by certified mail to your landlord and obtain a return receipt as proof that he received it.
You need to follow the proper process of rent withholding, because you risk facing an eviction if you simply refuse to pay rent. To withhold rent, you have to be current on your rent and the problem must be severe, for example leaks in the roof or an exterior door you can't close. Once your landlord fixes the problem, you must pay him the entire amount you owe. Before you withhold your rent, you should always call your county or city's Consumer Affairs Division for advice on whether it is an appropriate solution and how to go about doing it.
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