Another Word to Tenants


I worry that the message of this article may not get out far enough or quickly enough to be valuable. This article is addressed to Tenants, but because it may be Landlords who read this, I implore you to copy the article and make it available to anyone who needs it.

I truly feel the pain of those who honestly cannot make their rent payments. I know the baby must be fed and the children must go to school. I hope our social services network can help make that happen if you need it. This article is about where you live.

You know that the Landlord is restricted in its ability to evict you. Most Tenants in Okaloosa County are employed year-round by a government-funded employer and you have not lost your job. Some have.

I have said here before that any regulation or prohibition against eviction does not make your rent obligation disappear. If the payment isn’t made, the balance cannot be forgiven by a court. There is no provision in Florida law that allows the court discretion to give you a pass on paying rent. When a Judge hears your case, if there is a back-log of rent owed, the Judge has a duty at law to render a judgment for the Landlord. The Judge will be told by very good lawyers representing the Landlord that he (or she) has no discretion to let the Tenant avoid a money judgment.

A Judge may exercise some discretion in permitting the Tenant to stay, for a while, where a Tenant has made a good faith effort throughout the period of the lease to keep the Landlord informed of his circumstances and to pay all that he could pay to stay current.

But remember that the Judge cannot make the accumulated debt go away. It will hang over you if you apply to lease elsewhere.

It would probably be an unconstitutional impairment of contract rights for any state or federal regulation to require a bank to modify its promissory note with the Landlord. The Landlord will be squeezed and possibly even face foreclosure if the Tenant does not make his payment timely. Do not expect the Landlord to feel good about that. Throughout your tenancy your Landlord will continue to make his mortgage payments, if he can.

To the Tenants, there are some rules that I would like you to know.

1. Make your payments if you can.

2. If you cannot, communicate immediately, frequently, and honestly with your Landlord.

3. You cannot be jailed for failing to pay a debt. You can be jailed for perjury. If you have a problem with knowing the difference between truth and fiction, when you get in front of a Judge you need to leave that problem behind. A lie told under oath is perjury

4. Document any modifications you and your Landlord agree on. If you can’t make an agreement that both of you sign, then keep a truthful log of discussions and agreements.

You can help a Judge by following the above rules. No one wants to see you and your family walking your suitcases down the sidewalk, or sleeping in the car. But the Judge knows what I said above about the Landlord being caught in the middle, and the Judge owes a responsibility to both sides. You will help everyone involved if you can prove you have made your best effort to be a good Tenant.

I initially intended this article to be about Reverse Mortgages. I am still gathering information from Financial Planners and Realtors about Reverse Mortgages. I appreciate any information that people can send me about their experiences with that product.


Mike Chesser is President of Chesser & Barr, P.A. and Old South Land Title, Inc., both in Shalimar, Niceville and Crestview. He is Board Certified in Real Property and Local Government Law and can be reached at All articles are indexed and can be found online at