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Real estate Q&A: Can a landlord unilaterally change terms of my lease?

Gary M. Singer, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: I live in a large apartment complex where we paid a flat fee for water. Recently, the management started charging us for water per square foot rented and by the number of people living there. The more tenants, the higher my water bill. I just paid $125 when I normally paid $55. Is this legal? -- Peggy

A: When you rent a home, most of your relationship with your landlord is controlled by the written terms of your lease. Your specific answer can be found by reviewing the terms of your lease.

If your lease states that you are supposed to reimburse your landlord for water, rather than having water included in your rent, then you would need to do so. Of course, your landlord must charge you fairly and not take advantage of the situation.

The way that your landlord is splitting the bill should be disclosed in the lease and cannot be changed without your agreement, whether by amending your current lease or by new terms when you renew. Your landlord cannot just unilaterally change your lease terms. These sorts of changes are typically done when you renew your lease for another year, giving you the choice to accept the change or move out.

If your complex made the change without your agreement, you should ask them to abide by the terms of your lease, and you can take legal action if they do not do so. However, if you already agreed to the change, then you are stuck with it until your lease term is complete.

About The Writer

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Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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