Hurricane Damage

What Can a Landlord Do When a Rental Is Damaged or Destroyed by a Hurricane?

There are many wide-ranging legal issues after a hurricane devastates a community.  There is typically loss of utilities, damage to landscaping, flooding, and other minor inconveniences that nearly everyone experiences.  But what happens when you are a landlord of a rental property occupied by tenants?  What are the landlord’s legal obligations to the tenant and what are the landlord’s rights related to access for the purpose of making repairs?

Property Damage Outside of Tenant Responsibilities

These issues will typically be governed by Chapter 83, Florida Statutes. Under Section 83.63, Florida Statutes, if the premises are damaged or destroyed other than by the wrongful or negligent acts of the tenant, so that the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and immediately vacate the premises. The tenant may vacate the part of the premises rendered unusable by the casualty, in which case the tenant’s liability for rent shall be reduced by the fair rental value of that part of the premises damaged or destroyed.

But what happens when there is damage and repairs need to be made but the tenant is uncooperative in allowing the landlord’s contractors to access the property?  Under Section 83.51, Florida Statutes, The landlord at all times during the tenancy shall:

(a) Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; or

(b) Where there are no applicable building, housing, or health codes, 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.

The landlord, at commencement of the tenancy, must ensure that screens are installed in a reasonable condition. Thereafter, the landlord must repair damage to screens once annually, when necessary, until termination of the rental agreement.

Landlord & Tenant Expectations

Under Section 83.53, Florida Statues, the tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to:

  • enter the dwelling unit from time to time in order to inspect the premises;
  • make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements;
  • supply agreed services; or
  • exhibit the dwelling unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workers, or contractors. 

The landlord may enter the unit AT ANY TIME for protection or preservation of the premises and may otherwise enter the dwelling unit upon reasonable notice to the tenant (at least 24 hours prior to entry) and at a reasonable time (between 7:30am and 8:00pm) for the purpose of repair of the premises.

If you are a landlord and have questions about your rights and responsibilities related to your hurricane-damaged rental, please call (800) 896-3619 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced real estate attorneys.