I am looking for advice on how to handle a tenant that has failed to satisfy the terms of the lease and is now threatening legal action for repayment of rent paid and potentially moving costs due to safety concerns. The legal threats increased when advised they would be obligated to pay rent until house relet.
Please note the safety concern is not with house, but with area.
I feel the tenant should pay for any rent due until re-rented, along with any associated marketing fees/time. There is nothing I could locate in the State Statute or in the lease agreement which would indicate the tenant was not obligated. The lease was very thorough (thank you BP).
I appreciate your insight.
House / Area Details -
SFR Property in downtown Orlando (urban living within mile of city center)
4/3 with one car garage build in 1948
House is in good condition with renovated kitchen, MBR, and new roof.
One car garage can fit a small SUV at a minimum.
One block off of commercial area - commercial construction under way across street.
We passed on two other offers for the property as this individual submitted the security deposit first and submitted all the requested paperwork (application, background & credit request).
House is now under a lease agreement with a 10/1 first rent due date.
Lease signer's relative viewed the property multiple times prior to tenant move in (tenant was on vacation out of State). Relative brought deposit within a day of viewing to secure rental. Tenant signed lease without personally viewing house. Lease was signed and returned 10 days prior to move in. The lease started on 8/20, tenant moved into house on 8/22, on 8/23 tenant informed us they could not live in the house because of safety concerns (not with house, but because someone was loitering across the street in the commercial lot under construction). Tenant sent an email with her intent to vacate. On 8/24 the tenant vacated the house. Tenant acknowledged in writing the landlord did not have control over the commercial space. Tenant also advised they could not park in the garage which would improve her safety (see house details). Safety due to the surrounding area is the crux of the argument and the tenant feels we should have warned her.
Tenant has worked within a 1/2 mile of the house for over years according to application. This includes one building of employment within two blocks.
Side note -
We owned the house for ten years, lived in the house for five years with no issues or safety concerns. A prior tenant that lived in the house for five years also had no safety concerns.
House had large Camphor tree (invasive in FL) in the back yard which was removed just prior to move in due to safety and structural concerns (great for shade, but shed large branches and could lift foundation). The tenant was informed as a courtesy prior to move in of the tree removal. Tenant was also advised the back yard would be landscaped as tree killed grass (since completed).
It is normal to feel afraid and anxious when a tenant threatens to sue. Even us seasoned landlords get frustrated over this because we hate having to go to court.
What is important when we do go to court is to make sure we have all the documents to prove our case. But even though we cover our behinds 100%, there is always that one tenant that believes we are wrong and they are right and that they will win. How I detested these types of lawsuits as they are time wasters.
However, it is part of being a landlord. And, when you have done everything correctly, have documents to prove your case, then there is nothing to worry about when you go to court. It is natural to be nervous when standing in front of a crowd and in front of a Judge. (They look so mean!!!) (Remember your back faces the crowd. All you see is the Judge, so nothing to shake and shiver about)
But Judges love landlords who are professional and organized and have evidence.
Also, most times a tenant threatening to sue will not sue. It is just another way of trying to get out of something.
So let the tenant do what they have to do and if you have to go to court, go to court. I always viewed going to court as a college course. You learn a lot by listening to other cases that are ahead of you. And then you go home and add more Addendums to your lease agreement. (What you can learn in court is an eye opener for sure)
I am comfortable with the information we have, but it is the unknown of going to court which increases the anxiety.
Thank you for the information Nancy.
@Jeremy Anderson It is standing firm in the storms and facing our fears which make us stronger and wiser. Just the thought of being in your situation makes me fearful of becoming a landlord but I am slowly learning to view these situations as learning opportunities. As @Nancy Neville said, view this as a college course. You never know the contacts you might make or what you might learn that will be so valuable in your future. Go forward with fear and trembling and stand firm knowing that you did nothing wrong. You will be so proud on the other side of this.
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