A landlord in Broward shut off the electricity to the home of a family who was unable to pay rent. State Rep. Shevrin Jones was emailed with the problem and Jones contacted the landlord to let him know that what he was doing was illegal.
Under Florida law, landlords can't shut off a home's power or water in an attempt to force out a renter. Now that tenants are struggling to pay rent because of a coronavirus-related job loss, advocates worry that cash-strapped families could face retaliation in the form of a utility shutoff.
Florida Statute 83.67 says a landlord cannot directly or indirectly cut off any utility service, including water, heat, light, electricity, gas, elevator operations, garbage collection, or refrigeration not even if the landlord is paying for the service. The law is meant to prevent landlords from subverting the formal eviction process simply by making a property uninhabitable. As of now, a statewide moratorium on evictions is in place until mid-May.
Renters in Miami-Dade can call Legal Services for assistance, and those north of the county line can contact Broward Legal Aid.
Tenants do have legal recourse, according to the law. Landlords can be sued for up to three times the cost of monthly rent for each violation of the utilities statute and ignorance of the law is not a defense.
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