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The apartment I am living in is infested with bats. There is…

The apartment I am...

The apartment I am living in is infested with bats. There is bat poop all over the outside of the window sills as well as inside a corner of the bedroom closet, which i've had to empty out and move out of that room. I took pictures and contacted my landlord. She said she would hire a professional right away to come take care of it but that I would have to move out right away and she would allow breaking the lease. It took me awhile but I managed to arrange to move in to a new apartment on March 31st. Because I had paid 2 months rent plus a $500 deposit at move in to the first apartment, I withheld the 2nd month's rent, but I was paying the 15th to the 15th and believe the landlord owes me for 2 weeks that I have paid for but won't be using as I'm moving out on the 31st. I also believe my $500 deposit is due back to me. In the meantime, the landlord did not have a professional come out and inspect the bat problem. She had her handy man come out and "drape" screening across the front windows of the house - they aren't even attached! The bat poop is still everywhere. And she left a check for only $375 attached to my door saying that was all due me because in case I don't leave the place in the same order as I rented it she will need the $125 to hire someone to clean it. I am shocked and angry! I have pictures of the bat poop and the improper screens that have been put up, and our corresponding emails. What rights do I have to getting my 1/2 month's rent back and full deposit? I just moved there in January and now have to spend more money on moving costs!

Lawyer's Assistant: Because laws vary from place to place, can you tell me what state the property is in?

Florida

Lawyer's Assistant: What are the terms of the lease? Any issues related to maintenance or upkeep?

Oh yes, it is a full tenant lease that states I can expect a clean and healthy environment - which it is not!

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

That the landlord acted "surprised" about the bats and said she would have a professional take care of it right away - but didn't. She had her handyman take a look and put outside screening up loosely over the front windows and nothing more. The neighbor told me the landlord absolutely knows about the bat problem because for years she has been complaining about them. She has children and she doesn't want them nesting in her house right next door but the landlord never has done anything. It is an old historic home over 100 years old.

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Answered in 10 minutes by:
3/26/2018
Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 31,899
Experience: JA Mentor
Verified

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

Just to clarify, when did you move in?

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Customer reply replied 25 days ago
I moved in on January 15th. I signed a lease paying $975 a month from the 15th to the 15th.
Customer reply replied 25 days ago
I really can't afford the additional cost to talk on the phone - I'm already out my last 2 weeks of rent and the full amount of my deposit and already had to pay the deposit and fees on a new apartment already, not to mention the $300 in moving costs its going to cost me AGAIN!

Thank you. There's no need to talk on the phone. The site automatically sends out those requests. It'll just take me a couple of minutes to type your answer.

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If you paid two months rent when you moved in, then you're paid in full through March 15. But if you also paid rent on Feb. 15, then you're right that the landlord owes you two weeks money back. That's not all she owes you, though. Florida Stat., Section 83.56 says that when an apartment is uninhabitable due to the landlord's failure to maintain it, and the tenant has to leave, the tenant is entitled to a refund of all rent paid during the time the place was unlivable. Since the problem existed at the time you moved in, a judge could order her to reimburse you all rent paid for those two months.

On top of that, she can't decide now how much of your security deposit you get back when you move. If you leave the place as clean as you found it and undamaged, you're entitled to a full refund. She's not allowed to withhold $125 just in case she has to clean - especially when it seems pretty clear that cleaning will be necessary due to her failure to control the bats. You can sue for the money she withheld, too.

Have I answered your question? If any part of my response is unclear, please reply WITHOUT rating so I can clarify. My goal is to provide excellent service, so if I've done that, please give me a 5-star rating before signing out. Thank you for using JustAnswer.

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Customer reply replied 25 days ago
That is such good news - thank you! I just need to know what to do next - do I contact a real estate lawyer to handle this for me or do I file a complaint in small claims court?

You're welcome!

There's technically no lawsuit until you move out, even if she's telling you that she won't return the money. The law then gives her 30 days to return the security deposit. From what you've said, it seems like that note is an indication that she's not going to do it, but it's possible a judge might find that part of the suit premature. The safer course of action would be to wait and file on April 30, when the note doesn't arrive. You don't need a lawyer.

The other option is to show her the statutes, and give her the option of either returning your money now or being sued for more than the 2 weeks + $125 you originally asked for.

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Customer reply replied 25 days ago
Perfect! Do I file my complaint in a small claims court?

Since you're asking for less than $5,000, yes. Your local courthouse should have the forms available. Here is more information on the process:

http://www.flcourts.org/resources-and-services/family-courts/family-law-self-help-information/small-claims.stml

Please rate my service positively, as this is the only way that I get paid for the time spent answering your questions. Thank you.

Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 31,899
Experience: JA Mentor
Verified
Lucy, Esq. and 87 other Real Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
Ask your own question now
Customer reply replied 25 days ago
Thank you very much! This has been so helpful to me. 5 Stars for sure!! Have a great day!

You're welcome, and thank you! Good luck!

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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq.
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Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 31,899
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The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).

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