Renters 101

Tips to Avoid Rental Rip-offs

Do Your Homework

  • Ask to inspect the apartment or home you are going to rent before you show up with your belongings ready to move in
  • Do a full walk-through and document previous damage or repairs that should be made before moving in
  • Speak to other tenants to find out if the landlord is quick to make repairs
  • Review the lease agreement before signing, and don't sign if you don't understand and agree to the terms
  • Keep a copy of the lease for your records and know the terms and conditions; lease agreements are binding contracts

Florida's Landlord-Tenant Law on Withholding Rent

  • Notices to and from landlords and tenants should be in writing and sent via certified mail
  • Tenants have the right to withhold rent if the landlord does not make certain repairs
  • Tenants must issue the landlord a certified letter at least seven days before rent is due
  • The letter must list the repairs that the landlord has neglected to address
  • Once repairs are made, the landlord is entitled to the full amount of the rent
  • For full details on renter's rights and responsibilities, see Florida Statute 83, Part II

Never Pay in Cash

  • Pay by check or money order to ensure proof of payment
  • If you must pay in cash, always get a signed and dated receipt

Get Renter's Insurance

  • It is relatively inexpensive and covers most losses to your personal belongings from theft or damage
  • It may cover you if you are sued by someone who alleges that they were injured in your rental home or apartment due to your negligence

Before You Move

  • Provide the landlord proper notice to vacate, as required under the lease or determined by Florida Statute
  • Take pictures or video of the condition of the rental unit
  • Get written acknowledgement of the property's condition at time of move-out
  • Under Florida law, landlords have 15 days to issue a full refund of a deposit, or 30 days to issue notification of rent to withhold some or all of your security deposit


  • An eviction order from the court can remain on your credit report for seven years
  • Negotiating an early termination of the lease may help you to avoid the hassles of an eviction process
  • You may contest the eviction in court if you believe the landlord has no basis to evict
  • If possible, consult with an attorney about your legal rights during an eviction process

Health & Safety Violations

  • Seek help from County or City Code Enforcement offices to address minimum housing code

For more information, attend the Avoid the Rips-Offs of Renting workshop at 1:30 p.m. on July 13 at the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library, or contact the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency at (813) 903-3430.