Florida law offers little protection if home is damaged & renters have to leave

Florida law offers little protection if home is damaged & renters have to leave

Temple Terrace teacher Tiera Brown’s life turned upside down in the middle of the night. She told ABC Action News it all started when the sound of water running woke her up.

I flip the light on and in the same moment the light came on, the ceiling collapsed, Brown said.

Without warning, water-soaked insulation and most of the hallway ceiling crashed to the floor. Brown called it a narrow miss.

I am so thankful it did not hit me,” Brown said. “Five seconds later, I would have been standing there when it came down.

Brown ran into her 8-year-old son’s room and got him out of the apartment. Shortly after, she called the apartment complexs emergency line.

Within a day, the crew came out, cleaned up the insulation, and taped off the hole in the ceiling. But they also gutted a shower wall and removed the sink in the unit’s only bathroom.

Brown and her son Abe were left with no working bathroom, but that wasn’t the only reason she said the unit was uninhabitable.

I couldn’t come in here without coughing almost immediately and my son has respiratory issues, Brown said.

Brown told ABC Action News she asked management to cover the cost of a hotel during the repair process.

Then they just said, ‘Oh no, you can live there. During this time, while the repairs are being made, you can live there,'” Brown recalled.

In this case, the damage wasn’t enough to trigger a renters insurance claim. So, Abe went to stay with his dad, and Brown moved in with a friend.

Tom DiFiore with Bay Area Legal Services said tenants who find themselves vacating after an emergency are on their own.

There is no specific provision in the landlord-tenant law that says a landlord shall provide shelter in the event of an emergency, DiFiore said.

Those who bought renters insurance may get reimbursed for a hotel room as well as damaged items, but policies differ. DiFiore suggested tenants save their receipts and their bills in the event they choose to file a case in small claims court.

What about paid rent money?

Brown said she paid for February in full days before the ceiling came down on the 6th. Brown said property management offered to let her move into another unit but refused to refund any of Februarys rent or pay for the move.

No one answered the office door at Summit West and they did not respond to our emails. But after our contact, management offered to let Brown out of her lease and refund the days in February she was unable to occupy the apartment.

I was like, ‘oh my,’ I was just so relieved in that moment. And so so thankful that I had you,” Brown told ABC Action News’ Jackie Callaway.

Tenants who find themselves in a damaged unit and dealing with a property owner who is not in a hurry to make repairs should call code enforcement. They will inspect the rental and order the landlord to make repairs. But even in those cases, the tenant is still obligated to pay the rent.

​Tampa Bay tenants are discovering Florida law offers little protection when their home is damaged, and they have to get out.