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Florida statutes section 83.63 “Casualty damage”  provides that —If the premises are damaged or destroyed other than by the wrongful or negligent acts of the tenant so that the enjoyment of the premises is substantially impaired, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and immediately vacate the premises. The tenant may vacate the part of the premises rendered unusable by the casualty, in which case the tenant’s liability for rent shall be reduced by the fair rental value of that part of the premises damaged or destroyed. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall comply with s. 83.49(3) dealing with the requirement to make a claim on security deposit.

Only the tenant may choose to terminate the lease or stay after a casualty.   In Baldo v. Georgoulakis, 1 FLW Supp 432 (11th Cir. 1993) the property was damaged by hurricane Andrew,  but the tenant had no where else to go.  The court ruled that “neither this section nor any other section of Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes gives the landlord the right to terminate the lease in the event of casualty damage. Rather, the landlord had the statutory obligation under Section 83.51 to maintain the roofs, windows, screens, doors and all other structural components in good repair.”  Even if the house is uninhabitable “any defect in the habitability of the house does not terminate the lease; it simply triggers the landlord’s obligation to repair so that the tenant may have a habitable dwelling.”

Further any lease provision “prohibiting alterations without written consent of the owner is completely irrelevant to this dispute. It certainly did not prohibit emergency repair of casualty damage that was not performed by the landlord.”

The   court  ruled the tenant had the right to terminate the tenancy,  or to stay with the rent reduced according to the extent of the damage.  The court also ordered the landlord to reimburse the tenant for the cost of emergency repairs done by the tenant to preserve the leased premises (replaced broken windows and doors,  patched roof).

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