TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The temperature shot up to 90 degrees in the Norwood family’s rented townhome when the air conditioning died in the middle of June’s heatwave.

“It was a nightmare,” Nakisha Norwood told ABC Action News.

Nakisha said she called maintenance, and workers made several unsuccessful attempts to get the unit up and running.

“Around noon to one in the house, it would get to about 89 degrees,” Norwood said, making it unbearable for her and her three daughters who lived there.

She called Hillsborough County Code Enforcement and ABC Action News confirmed the county asked the landlord to fix the unit. But after two weeks, the family said they were still living with no AC other than the portable unit they rented in order to cool the home down.

Norwood learned the harsh truth — Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Law provides renters few options when it comes to chronic maintenance issues.

Tom DiFiore with Bay Area Legal Services said the nonprofit is flooded with calls for help from troubled tenants. He recommends tenants do everything they can to negotiate a repair with the landlord.

DiFiore suggested renters who don’t get a response take these steps:

  • Deliver a written notice by mail to the landlord at least 12 days before the rent is due
  • Call code enforcement for inspection
  • After 12 days, you can withhold rent

But tenants need to understand withholding the rent may trigger an eviction filing. And that filing, even if the tenant fights it and wins, stays on the renter’s court record.

In Nakisha’s case, ABC Action News reached out to Hillsborough County Code enforcement and the property management office. Two days later a crew showed up and replaced the entire unit.

“I can’t even begin to say what a relief it is,” Nakisha said.

But that relief is tempered by a fear of the landlord being upset about the code enforcement citation and Nakisha wondering if she would be allowed to renew her lease.

For more on Landlord/Tenant Law, click here.

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