TO RENEW OR NON-RENEW, THAT IS THE QUESTION – Fair Housing Considerations
by Cathy L. Lucrezi, Attorney at LawHamlet only had to decide how to avenge his father’s death. You have to decide whether to non-renew a tenant who has been a problem during the past year – making noise, paying late, yelling at staff. Although you really want the tenant to be gone, you worry that tenant will think you are discriminating against her.
You have the right to non-renew a tenant at the end of a lease term. Florida law does not require that you have a reason for the non-renewal. Nonetheless, you better have one, and it better be documented in your file. Without that documentation, you may be vulnerable if the tenant later claims you are violating the Fair Housing Law. Often, documentation is key to winning a fair housing case.
It is also a good idea if your office develops a renewal policy. The policy will set the standard for who stays and who goes. Thus the decision about renewal will not be arbitrary.
Such a policy can say a tenant will be subject to a non-renewal if one or more of the following conditions apply:
1. The tenant received one or more 7 day Notices of Noncompliance within the preceding twelve months.
2. The tenant was late with rent 2 or more months within the preceding twelve months.
3. The tenant has violated the lease and/or the community rules four or more times within the preceding twelve months, and each of the violations is documented in the tenant’s file.
4. The tenant owes an amount to management for rent, late charges, repairs, or other amounts, and the debt is more than 30 days past due.
5. The owner and/or management plans to use the unit for purposes other than the rental of a residential unit.
This is just an example. Your renewal policy should reflect your property’s priorities. Of course, your policy is only good if it is consistently applied.