Navigating Tampa’s Legal Landscape: A Guide to Compliance and Risk Management in Property Management - Article Banner

In Florida, we don’t have a lot of legal hoops to jump through like our friends in California, Oregon, or New York. State law prohibits rent control, Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Act is fair and balanced to both landlords and tenants, and the eviction process is fairly straightforward, especially when you can prove there has been nonpayment of rent. 

Complying with state and local laws is essential, however, whether we’re talking about security deposit requirements or habitability standards. 

It’s easy to make a legal mistake, and those mistakes are often expensive. We are here to help you navigate the Tampa rental market’s legal landscape and to ensure you don’t fall into any potential legal pitfalls. 

Here’s your guide to compliance and risk management in Tampa property management

Start with a Thorough Lease Agreement

Having a comprehensive lease agreement is crucial to managing risks as a rental property owner. A strong lease agreement helps clarify responsibilities and sets clear expectations for both the landlord and the tenant. When you have a good lease in place, the document will outline the terms of the rental agreement, including your rent collection policy, how the security deposit is being held, and whether pets are permitted. 

The lease must also include sections on the property’s upkeep and maintenance responsibilities, rules and regulations for tenants, and policies around late payments and evictions. If you’re renting out a home in an HOA, make sure your tenant has a copy of all the HOA rules and regulations. 

Your lease will protect you during a security deposit dispute, an eviction proceeding, or a claim that you have not done what you are responsible for doing. 

Fair Housing Laws 

State and local fair housing laws follow the federal Fair Housing Act. You are not permitted to discriminate against any tenant or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, familial situation, national origin, or disability.

You might think you would never discriminate against anybody for those reasons while renting out your property, and you’re probably right. 

However, the law is broad, and if you use the wrong language in your marketing materials or you screen one tenant even slightly differently than you screen your other tenants, you can be accused of discrimination and face a fair housing investigation. 

Keep your screening process objective. Provide a written set of standard qualifying criteria to every applicant so they know exactly what you’re looking for before you approve a tenant for your property. Don’t use language in your listing that would show preference over one type of tenant or demographic. Focus on why the property would be great for anyone and everyone. 

Security Deposit Laws in Tampa 

Florida does not have any limits on how much of a security deposit you collect. However, the law does require you to hold that deposit in a “Florida banking institution”. If you’re investing from out of state, make sure you’re holding your tenant’s deposit in a Florida bank with a Florida address. This has to be disclosed in your lease agreement as well. 

At the end of the lease term, you’ll have 15 days to return a tenant’s security deposit. If you were holding the deposit in an interest-bearing account, you’d have to pay the interest. When there are damages that will require a deduction, you have 30 days to let your tenant know that you’ll be withholding part or all of the deposit. You’ll need to provide an itemized statement of what was spent and why. 

Make sure you’re withholding money from the deposit for lawful reasons. Generally, you can keep the deposit for: 

  • Unpaid rent or utilities 
  • Property damage (not to be confused with wear and tear)
  • Financial damages of lease breaks
  • Cleaning that will return the property to the same condition of cleanliness it was in when the tenants took possession. 

If you’re withholding money from the tenant’s deposit, make sure you have documentation that supports the deduction. You’ll need a detailed move-in and move-out inspection report with photos or video. 

Evicting a Tenant in Tampa 

No landlord wants to go to court to ask a judge to forcibly remove their tenant from their property. Eviction is the last resort after you have tried other methods, see Avoiding Eviction. If you have no choice, the eviction process will need your careful attention. While it’s not terribly complicated in Florida, if you do forget a detail or rush the process, you might find your case thrown out. We recommend you talk to a Tampa property manager or an experienced landlord/tenant attorney before heading to eviction court. 

Most evictions are for non-payment of rent, and you’ll want to serve a Notice to Pay or Quit once the due date and any grace periods have come and gone. Although Florida law required a 3-Day Notice to Pay or Quit, this is currently superseded by the federal CARES Act which requires a 30-Day Notice. The tenant will have an opportunity to pay the rent or move out. If the three days pass without a payment, you can file an eviction lawsuit with the court. The tenants will have a chance to respond, and you’ll get a court date. 

Follow all of the steps to an eviction. Make sure you have the necessary documentation, pay attention to the proper service requirements, and show up for court prepared to answer questions and share your lease agreement, Three Day Notice, ledger, and any correspondence with your tenant. 

Consider Property Management Services in Tampa 

What are you required to do for your tenants if a hurricane hits and the home is uninhabitable for a few days? How can you respond to a tenant’s request for a service animal or an emotional support animal if you’re renting out a pet-free property? What if your tenant requests wheelchair ramps as an accommodation for their disability? There are new regulations around short-term rental properties and considerations that have to be made if you decide to rent out a guest house or an in-law apartment on a property that you already own. 

You’ll need to know how to handle all of these questions, and if you’re not sure you can, you need to partner with a property management expert. This is the best way to protect yourself and your investment property. We’ll keep you in compliance because we stay up to date on all the current and coming laws. 

Contact Property ManagerWe want to help. Contact us at Hoffman Realty so we can protect you from unnecessary risk and liability. We look forward to talking with you.