• Jail Time for Residential Landlords?
  • January 5, 2016 | Authors: Alexander Dobrev; Hanna Edeback
  • Law Firms: Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed Professional Association - Orlando Office ; Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed Professional Association - Orlando Office
  • Apparently residential landlords could face jail time if two companion bills introduced in the Florida House and Senate become law during the upcoming legislative session.

    House Bill 53 and Senate Bill 474 seek to impose criminal liability for residential landlords who violate certain provisions of the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Such potentially criminal violations would include landlord’s obligations to maintain the leased premises, which include ensuring that the premises is up to health codes, providing functioning utilities and exterminating pests (Florida Statute § 83.51). Additional residential landlord criminal violations include retaliatory conduct against a tenant such as increasing rent or decreasing services to a tenant in response to complaints from the tenant or other actions by the tenant (Florida Statute § 83.64); and terminating or interrupting utility services, preventing access to a dwelling unit, and removing tenant’s personal property (Florida Statute § 83.67).

    Pursuant to the proposed bill, a first offense would be treated as a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to 1 year imprisonment, and subsequent offenses would be treated as a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.

    The Senate bill has been referred to the Criminal Justice Committee, Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, and the Appropriations Committee.

    The House bill has been referred to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, and the Judiciary Committee

    Stay tuned for further developments as these bills make their way through the legislative process.