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Orlando real estate attorney says renters aren’t required to sign new COVID-19 agreements

Apartment complexes sending notices to tenants about common areas

As Florida moves forward with reopening, more businesses are taking steps to protect themselves from legal action should someone get sick with COVID-19, including apartment complexes that are urging residents to sign new agreements for their leases.

Orlando real estate attorney Nishad Khan said we are in uncharted territory due to the pandemic.

“Sellers, buyers, landlords, tenants, associations, property managers are all trying to figure out how to deal with social distancing when you have either common areas or you’re trying to sell your house or show a property,” Khan said.

He said he is already seeing some apartment complexes send notices to their tenants during the coronavirus pandemic requiring them to sign off on new rules to use common areas, like gyms and pools. The document informs tenants they assume any and all risk using these facilities.

Khan said many apartments have provisions in their leases that allows them to create new rules, such as requiring tenants to practice social distancing, practice good hygiene, and wipe down surfaces. But Khan said he believes complexes cannot force current tenants with existing leases to sign off on them.

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"You can't use that to force a tenant to sign a new agreement or create what we call an amendment to the lease," Khan said. "It's going to be interesting to see how the courts look at that."

Khan said he believes apartment complexes cannot evict you for choosing not to sign these agreements.

"It really comes back to the landlords ability to force the tenant to sign something that material and I think if that goes to eviction court or county court, they're going to have a hard time," Khan said.

Khan said we could start seeing COVID-19 safety measures and provisions in future leases and home contracts. He said some realtors are already using forms requiring potential buyers and sellers to practice CDC guidelines and inform all parties if they contract COVID-19 or come in contact with a positive patient.

Khan said these forms are helpful, but you are not required to sign them either.

"There's no law either on the state or federal level that forces people to sign these agreements or requires people to sign these agreements," Khan said. "They're very helpful for future prospects and future contracts, but existing contracts and existing leases, I think they're going to have the iggest problem."

Khan said if you get an agreement, you can write to your landlord and tell them you can comply with the rules, but you do not want to sign the document and see how they respond. He adds if you have any questions, you should contact an attorney.


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