Should Renters Get A Refund?

Friends from Greenwich are renting a oceanfront home in southern Florida for two+ months. The kids and grandkids are coming in rapid succession. We weren’t invited to stay but that’s a blog post for another day. Anyway, Life was Good……..

Until they learned, two months before they left for Florida, that the vacant lot next door is no longer vacant!!

My friends rented this house a full year ago and it wasn’t until the end of December they were told a house was being built. Not just a house. A GIANT house that now blocks out a huge portion of their morning sunshine, not to mention the invasion of the construction workers looking over to the yard and pool while in the scaffolding or upstairs.


It’s not as if in December my friends (the renters) could pull away from the contract. There was no way they’d find a replacement rental so late for peak season, oceanfront with pool, lots of bedrooms all recently renovated. No way. They felt they had no choice other than to keep the lease and suck up and deal.

The ethical, and maybe legal, question becomes “what did the owner of the rental know and when”? Did he know a year ago that a house was to be erected and said nothing in the listing?

Did the owner learn of the building at the same time in December that my friends realtor told them construction was happening next door?

Should the owner, as soon as he knew a house would be in the middle of ongoing construction, have contacted my friends through their realtor or directly, to say, Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. If you want out, you can. No penalty. Have your deposit back.

Should the owner have offered a discount if my friends said we have no choice but to stay? Should they demand a discount?

Or is it just Tough Luck…. Welcome to The Totem Pole of Real Estate?


Your thoughts?

PS: A realtor from Greenwich and occasional commenter here who calls himself Mick,  said he tried to comment but WordPress messed up his log-in, made a good point:

There is a legal expectation of “quiet enjoyment ” when you rent a property so I do believe the tenants would have some recourse in law.

43 thoughts on “Should Renters Get A Refund?

  1. Friends of ours rent a house on the cape every year and they were informed immediately of new construction .
    They actually should get some sort of rebate. Friends of ours own a ski house and the December renters wanted a refund for bad weather! So it’s a slippery slope.

    1. As landlords ourselves, we feel we would most definitely alert a tenant of major construction. If they want to rent, we’d lower the amount until the construction is over.

  2. This is being caught between a rock and a hard place. Give up rental and have to pay twice for something less, or stay, use, and hope realtor can negotiate some refund. Not all money back because your friends are using house, but some reasonable sum of money back as a gesture of good faith. Of course, if the owner knew the whole time and didn’t care about good faith, then good luck having him give a damn. First rule of thumb in Florida real estate: empty lots do not stay empty, especially oceanfront lots. When the owner of your friends rental bought his house, his lawyer’s due diligence would have said talk to the owner of the vacant lot and see what his/her plans are. He had to know it would be built on is my two cents.

  3. I’d put the burden on the realtor. If he/she negotiated the lease, he/she would have the most leverage with the owner to get some sort of refund. What would be acceptable? Do your friends want a gesture amount or a one month refund? Or more?

    1. I second the idea of going after the realtor. Those fees need to cover at least some professional competence in making minimal inquiries. At the very least, a complaint to the realtor licensing body would be in order if a rebate is not forthcoming. Chasing the owner will be futile. It being a rental and not a purchase, the money involved won’t justify a lawyer, and neither would the stress level. This is indeed just a terrible outcome for the renters – to boot, perpetrated by a landlord who surely knew what was happening and is obviously content to keep the spoils of disinformation, morals be darned.

      1. Here’s the rub. At some point the owner told the realtor he objected at a town planning board meeting that the house size overwhelmed the street.

        If the owner knew far back enough that the house to be built was large, he HAD to know that the construction would be large too.

        The unknown is when the owner told the realtor. Chances are she did not know unless she just happened to drive by. The owner wouldn’t be under any legal obligation (IMHO) to tell realtor.

    2. Good question about what $ they’d find acceptable. I didn’t ask them that. I think if it were me, I’d want more than a gesture but how much more, I’m not sure.

  4. Out of curiousity, Mrs. (Ms?) EOS. where is this located in Florida? Looks like a great spot – rare to see a rise up from the beach. Do my eyes deceive me, or is the house not built to FEMA code?

  5. I’d start with the slimy realtor. As the property owner I would have felt compelled to offer, at the very least, a discount. Since your friends are living in the house they have “eaten the steak” so some payment is due to the owner, the creep.

  6. It is my professional opinion that anyone who goes to Florida deserves what they get, which is most likely bad because everyone in Florida is either a crook or a killer. Just tell your friends to go home and never go back.

  7. Even if the owner doesn’t do the right thing and offer some kind of refund,he/she will get their just desserts going forward.with that imposing new house and lack of privacy I wouldn’t want to stay there,I would guess it will hurt the rental value.

  8. The Realtor should be hung and dried. He or she must have, or should have known, what was going on, and had a legal obligation to warn the client.

    That said, may I recommend the entire John D. Macdonald opus available at Amazon? He was an observer of the entire Florida disaster back in the 70s, and while his “Condominium” sums up the picture nicely, the entire “Travis McGee”series. ($235 bucks, 22 novels, worth every penny) tracks the entire disaster, while entertaining the reader all along the way.

    1. Dammit, EOS, this format seems to have no way to edit comments! I’d eliminate / substitute at least two of those “entire disasters” if I could. I do have different words in my vocabulary.

      1. I like “umglik” – the Yiddish word for accident · adversity · calamity · disaster · misfortune. Many people believe Florida should be renamed Umglik. “I’m going to Umglik to visit my grandparents and then to Disney World. I hope I’m not attacked and eaten by a pit bull.”

      1. I really think this is an issue to be put to the realtor licensing body. Does a realtor acting as an agent for a seasonal beachfront rental have a duty to inquire with the local municipality about the public status of a vacant lot next door (e.g. permits pending/applied for/issued?) I say yes – and if not, that needs to be changed. The entire purpose of using a realtor is to provide reassurance, to avoid surprises, and to ensure one’s money is handled diligently and to avoid the owner running off with it. The owner’s obligations may be nil to minimal but the realtor’s surely aren’t. These licensing boards are ostensibly out to protect the public, and they don’t serve a purpose if realtors simply need to post ads, and respond to queries – any idiot with an airbnb account can do that.

        1. Agree that someone should have been on top of knowing about pending permits. Here I have signed up for emails from the town so I get the agenda of all Planning Board and Town Board meetings so I can see in advance if someone on my street is about to build.
          I’d think all realtors, no matter their location, would do the same. Homeowners who rent out their houses should know too. Actually everyone should know what’s happening in their own town.

  9. Out here in WA the disclosure issues pretty much stop at the property line, and there are no universal rights to light, or view, so it’s pretty much caveat emptor. Would it have been nice to have been told? Certainly. Obligation on the part of the broker they worked with? Probably not. But who did the broker represent in the negotiations, landlord or renter? More leverage for the renter if broker claimed to be on his side–

    1. Agree the builder of new house had no obligation to say a thing. To anyone. The bad person in this equation as I see it is the owner of the rental. If he knew about impending construction he had an obligation to disclose it to any tenants. I don’t know how the broker fits into the representation loop.

      Thanks for your insight Al. Always appreciated.

  10. I’d pay the rent, but, not use it (lesson learned). However, if I did occupy the rental for the term, I’d call, telegram, text, smoke signal the owner every day and multiple times during the day the status of the noise, etc.

    1. Me? I’d come back next year renting the new big house and find a time when the OWNER next door us in residence then play as loud as I could all day on a loop the video clip you linked!! It would be fun as hell.

    1. It is huge isn’t it? We’re looking into the town building permits to see what and when it was issued and when owner next door went before the board to complain.

        1. Have kayaked by it and also driven by it many times, as it is on a shortcut everyone uses when going out to Longboat Key or Lido Shores. There is a stop sign in front of the house, which my wife once rolled through while gaping at this thing, and she was stopped by a cop. After explaining herself, apologizing for not seeing the stop sign, and showing credentials, she was sent on her way.

        2. Is it at all attractive or does its mega size overwhelm any architectural value? It also looks like it’s RIGHT ON THE ROAD. Yes?

          Funny story about your wife!!!!

  11. Lose-lose. I don’t see a scenario where your friends can get any refund. They were told in December so they had an opportunity to bail. Not something they saw was reasonable perhaps, but the realtor did give them a heads up when he saw/learned of construction. They’ve chosen to rent knowing the house construction was going to be invasive.

    As someone above said, the other lose is this owner will never get the same rent next year.

  12. Once they knew of the construction, they should have negotiated then for a discount. Did they make a serious effort to find other accommodations or did they assume there’d be nothing suitable?
    Perhaps they got a deal too good to be true in the first place.
    Hard to give an opinion without knowing all the details. Most likely, the owner knew long before December that there’d be construction but did not know exactly when it would start. Still, I don’t think your friends have any recourse at this point.
    Hey, the ocean is at their doorstep. The kids and grandkids are coming. There’s a pool. And, they can make all the noise they want since there are no neighbors to complain.

    1. I don’t believe they made a serious effort to look for something else because the realtor said she didn’t think the construction would be so bad. The realtor added she felt by the time my friends arrived, the loudest phase of work would be over – cement trucks, backhoes, etc etc. They were pretty shocked to see this giant thing looming over their yard and shadowing their house.

      I do think they, at some level, agree that hey, they are ON the beach with a pool with enough bedrooms for everyone to come and enjoy. It’s still hard for them to get over. Understandably. I don’t know if they’ll actively pursue a refund or go, do, enjoy, and not rent there again.

  13. I was going to await your blogpost of the ‘why’ of your non-invite, but, I think you made out well. It would be funny if you had to come up with an excuse, should they, now, proffer an invitation.

    1. Very funny!! Cruising is one of those things that is universally panned for having too many bad apples on board. It’s always a crap shoot, even on a ship as glorious as the Queen Mary2. The QM2 doesn’t tend to get any yahoos starting brawls but it does get its fair share of “bargain hunters” looking for that $595 fare for seven nights. We are proud to be snobs in this regard, setting ourselves apart from hoi polloi.

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