August 2013 Newsletter
When you need legal help, who can you turn to for solutions? Consider a law firm that provides long-term game plans, as well as immediate assistance with the urgent matters. Tampa Law Advocates, P.A. is your legal resource for business matters, family law, civil litigation and real estate and any debt-related issues, and we are pleased to provide you with this monthly informational newsletter.
Four Important Changes To the Florida Landlord Tenant Act
The real estate market has seen many changes in the last several years. The current trend is large hedge funds purchasing houses and renting them out to an increasingly mobile generation of would-be first time home buyers. Several significant changes to the existing Landlord-Tenant Act (Florida Statutes, Section 83) became effective July 1, 2013. While many of the changes are of technical nature and involve wording in disclosures and notices, there are four changes to the law which will make evictions easier and smoother for the investor. Here is a summary of the changes.
- Partial Rent. It used to be that if a landlord accepted a partial rent payment, he would have to worry about whether a judge would grant an eviction if the tenant failed to pay the balance. Attorneys would therefore routinely advise their clients to refuse partial rent payments, thereby creating a disincentive for the tenant as well as the landlord to try to work things out. The new law allows the landlord to accept a partial rent payment and still file and eviction in the same month. However, in order to proceed with eviction after accepting the partial rent, the landlord must do one of the following: (a) Give the tenant a receipt for the partial rent paid; (b) Place the partial rent into the Court Registry at the time of the eviction filing, or (c) Post a new three-day notice for the balance. To have the most chance of succeeding in an eviction, it would make sense to simply post the new three-day notice for the delinquent balance at the same time as giving the tenant a receipt for the rent actually received.
- Defective Three-Day Notices. Most landlords prepare and serve their own three-day notices, and any experienced landlord has a horror story about their eviction case being dismissed because of some minor mistake on the notice. Something as simple as a misspelled name to an incomplete address or wrong date calculation could not only jeopardize the eviction case, but it could also subject the landlord to paying the tenant’s attorney’s fees! “Professional tenants” would drag an eviction on for months at the expense of the landlord, who would not receive any rent during the process. Fortunately, the new law requires the judge to allow the landlord to cure the defect in the notice and serve a new one on the tenant without having the case dismissed. Also, if the tenant wants to challenge the legality of the Three-day notice, he must place the rent money into the Court Registry prior to filing an objection. This change should cut down on the free-riding tenants whose goal is to abuse the legal system at the expense of the hard-working landlord.
- Writ of Possession. The writ of possession is the final document that is used to transfer possessory rights to the property back to the landlord. Served by the sheriff, it gives the tenant a 24-hour time period to move out, after which point the tenant may be removed by force by law enforcement. Writs of possession could not be served on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, and those days were excluded in the 24-hour computation of time. Under the new law, the writ can now be served on a weekend or holiday, and those days count as part of the 24-hours. From a practical standpoint, the sheriff’s deputy will most likely not be serving the writs on these days, but the change in the law will reduce the amount of time that the tenant has in the property after he loses the eviction case.
- Seven-Day Notice of Noncompliance. If a tenant is paying rent but otherwise breaking the rules set forth in the lease agreement (i.e. unauthorized persons or pets, failure to maintain the property, etc.) the landlord can start the eviction process by serving a Seven-Day Notice of Noncompliance With Opportunity To Cure. If the tenant then complied but did the same thing wrong again within twelve months, the landlord would have to start the process all over with a new Notice. The new law allows the landlord, who has properly served the first Seven-Day Notice, to immediately file an eviction case against the tenant if he commits the same or similar offense during the lease.
There are several other changes to the statutes with regard to disclosures and notices, treatment of security deposits, attorney’s fees, and property maintenance issues. There have also been some changes with regard to prohibited retaliatory practices by the landlord against the tenant. Florida is overall a very fair state in that the legal rights of the tenant and landlord are evenly balanced. That being said, if you have the misfortune of having to deal with a problem tenant, you would be well served to seek legal advice before doing anything that could affect your rights.
Realtors: Want To Keep Control Of Your Short Sale?
Sellers are usually considering other options
If you are listing a short sale property and your seller is behind on payments, they are scared. At some point they will likely consult with a bankruptcy or foreclosure defense attorney, who may be allied with another real estate brokerage. How many times have you been close to short sale approval, only to learn that the seller filed a bankruptcy and did not bother to tell you his plans?
To provide full resources to your sellers, you should advise them to consult with an attorney very early on in the short sale process. Tampa Law Advocates, P.A. is pleased to provide a no-cost initial consultation for short sale and foreclosure sellers. There is no obligation, and you can rest assured that we will not try to “steer” them to another real estate brokerage or try to “kill” (as long as a short sale is in their best legal interests.) Have your clients call us at (813) 288-0303 to schedule a time to discuss their individual situation. We are here to help!.
Business Success After Bankruptcy? Yes, You Can.
Most of my clients in recent years have suffered financial losses because of the economy. I have represented many individuals who have had to file a personal and/or business bankruptcy, and I am happy to say that some of them are now, once again, successful business owners. It is always great to read about my past clients’ new business triumph in the newspaper or Tampa Bay Business Journal. The purpose of this article is to give hope to those entrepreneurial folks out there who might be going through a temporary financial crisis. Remember, it doesn’t need to be permanent, especially if you keep in mind a few simple pointers:
- “Keep your nose clean.” This was one of my mother’s favorite bits of advice when I was growing up. Basically, if you’re going through a bankruptcy, don’t mess everything up by concealing assets, transferring property to family members, or any similar nonsense. The consequences of fraudulent actions and perjury could come back to haunt you for a long time, and the point of a bankruptcy is usually to give you a fresh start. You don’t want any impropriety to mar your new business.
- Don’t be discouraged by any past failures, or even talk about them. Most successful business leaders have had past failures. There is nothing wrong with learning from past mistakes, but don’t let them hold you back. It is unlikely that anyone will know or care too much about your bankruptcy in the future. Act in the present, and live for the future.
- Learn about and take advantage of local resources. Tampa Bay is a great place for start-ups. Some of the great resources include accelerator programs, access to investors, and business-friendly financing. The local Chambers of Commerce are a good place to learn about programs that are available to help your business grow and succeed.
- Preparation is key. Develop a clear idea of how you want your business to work. Even for a small business, you should create an organizational chart and written strategic plan. Consider hiring a business coach to assist you with this early on in the business, and as you grow.
- Satisfy your customers, but also your employees. Your staff members will make or break you. Having a negative corporate culture will lead to high employee turnover, and customers will notice it as well. Develop a positive workplace atmosphere, and you will have less headaches, and probably more repeat customers.
- Persevere. See your obstacles as an opportunity for creative problem-solving, and do not be discouraged. Seek help along the way from professionals as well as other business owners in your industry. Joining professional associations is a great way to establish your own personal support system.
- Keep your business separate from your personal affairs. The legal and practical dangers of comingling personal funds with business assets are numerous. It also is very important to keep your new business separate from any old businesses that you may have had in the past. Starting fresh is the key, and this means forming a separate entity altogether.
- Utilize experienced tax and legal professionals when you set up your new venture. There are very distinct advantages and disadvantages to each type of company structure (i.e. corporation, LLC, partnership, etc.). It is much easier to set your business up correctly rather than trying to change the structure later on.
Remember, it’s always darkest just before the dawn. You may know that Henry Ford, Bill Gates and Richard Branson, among numerous others, experienced significant failures in their careers before they became successful.
Call me today at (813) 288-0303 for an initial no-cost consultation to discuss your particular situation.
About Our Firm
Tampa Law Advocates, P.A. represents clients throughout the Tampa Bay area and Florida in general practice law, including bankruptcy and foreclosure defense, civil litigation, business law, divorce and family law, criminal defense, and real estate matters. We invite you to read our practice areas overview for more information about how we can assist you and your business.
Led by firm founder Samantha L. Dammer, our attorneys have handled thousands of cases and developed expertise in numerous areas of law. Ms. Dammer uses her extensive bankruptcy and foreclosure defense experience to work with each client to find the best possible resolution to their particular financial situation.
We understand that dealing with a legal problem can be difficult, and our entire staff is devoted to helping you, listening to your needs, and working through your situation in a discreet, professional manner. By carefully taking the time to understand your concerns, we can create the legal strategy that is best for your particular situation. For your convenience, we accept credit cards and our Of Counsel attorney speaks Spanish. To discuss your case with us, please contact us today.
Tampa Law Advocates, P.A., represents clients in Florida including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, Bradenton, including all of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, Manatee Counties, Charlotte County, Lakewood Ranch, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Dade City, New Port Richey.
Samantha L. Dammer, Esq.
Tampa Law Advocates, P.A.