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Real estate Q&A: Can new landlord refuse repairs until I pay another security deposit?

Gary M. Singer, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Our landlord sold the home we have rented for many years. The new landlord wants us to make a new security deposit. We told him that we still have the one from when we moved in. He feels that is the prior owner's problem and is withholding repairs to the home until we make another deposit. Can he do this? -- Tina

A: No. When your landlord sells the home you rent, it does not affect your existing lease other than who your landlord is. The deposits, along with the responsibilities and rights that come with being a landlord, transfer from the old owner to the new one.

In most cases, your old landlord would have given the new owner credit and accounting of the deposits at the closing. Your new landlord should have asked for a signed statement, often called an "estoppel" detailing the terms of your lease during the purchase process. Even if your deposits were not transferred to your new landlord, he would still be on the hook for them as if they were.

None of the terms of your lease change because the property owner did. If your electric was included in the rent before it will still be now. The maintenance obligations also remain the same as before. Be aware that unless you negotiated the right to renew in your lease, once your term is up, you would need to renegotiate a new lease. The terms of this new lease can be very different from the previous one, or you may not even be offered a new lease at all.

Your landlord may not withhold repairs. He needs to live up to the obligations agreed in the lease, even if he feels you are not. Withholding services is considered "constructive eviction" and can have serious penalties.

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 www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

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