Most Florida tenants who sign a lease usually intend to occupy the rental unit for the entire lease term, rather than move elsewhere before the fixed term lease expires. However, life and circumstances change and a tenant may be forced to break their Florida lease agreement early which can cause their landlord some stress!
As a landlord in Florida, knowing about Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Law and what to do in this scenario is key as it can help you avoid potential legal issues with tenants in your rental property.
When it comes to lease breaking or breaking a lease early, the procedure a landlord must follow is informed by a tenant’s reason for breaking the lease as well as any notice given by tenants. Some reasons to break a lease are legally justified whereas others aren’t. If your tenant has a legally justified reason to break the lease, then they have a right to terminate their tenancy without being penalized per Florida law.
On the other hand, if the tenant’s reason isn’t legally justified, then you may be able to hold them liable for paying the rent due for the remainder of the lease term.
In the following article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about breaking a lease in Florida. This includes conditions that allow a Florida tenant to break their lease legally, reasons to break a lease that aren’t legally justified, and whether state law requires landlords to mitigate damages.
Conditions that Allow a Tenant to Break their Lease Legally
In Florida, your tenant can legally break their lease without penalty in the following circumstances.
The Lease Permits It
Some Florida landlords intentionally include an early termination clause in their lease agreement in case of lease breaking. When writing this clause into the lease, landlords often include certain conditions, which if met, relieve the new tenant of any further rent obligation for the rest of the lease period.
Generally, landlords who include an early termination fee clause usually require that the tenant pay a penalty fee and provide advance notice that they will be not be paying rent.
The Tenant is Starting Active Military Service
Under Florida statutes, active service members who are either deployed or relocated can legally break their rental lease in Florida. The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act protects these tenants from the day they enter active duty to between 30 to 90 days after discharge.
This protection under the Civil Relief Act is limited to servicemembers. Florida defines servicemembers as members of the Armed Forces, Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Activated National Guard.
As per this act, tenants must first fulfill specific requirements before moving out of rental units and ending their lease period.
They are as follows.
- The tenant must have signed the lease before entering military service or signed the rental agreement during active military duty and then received a permanent change of station orders.
- The tenant must meet lease termination notice requirements by providing their landlord written notice in advance of their intention to move out with attached deployment letters from their commanding officer.
When these qualifications are met and written notice is provided, the earliest the lease can be terminated is 30 days after the first date of the next rent cycle.
The Unit is No Longer Habitable
Florida, like most states, has specific health and safety codes that every landlord must abide by. If a landlord fails to maintain these habitable housing standards, especially after being notified by their tenant, they may be able to take action against the landlord. Florida requires landlords to make and pay for repairs within 20 days after being notified by their tenant. If they do not pay repairs to the premises, landlords might have to pay legal fees.
The following are your tenant’s options if their landlord ignores their maintenance requests, particularly those affecting their habitability.
- Withholding future rent payments until you make the repairs.
- Repairing the issue and then deducting the costs from future rent payments.
- Pursuing legal action for damages that may have resulted from the habitability problems.
- Reporting you to public health officials for action.
- Breaking the lease agreement.
Obviously, none of these options are good for your reputation as a landlord or your bottom line. That’s why it’s important to inspect your property on a routine basis and respond to maintenance issues promptly so that all health and safety violations are avoided during a tenancy. Fla. Stat. 83.51 details the steps a landlord must take to provide a habitable home for their renters.
Violating Your Tenant’s Privacy
Tenants in Florida have a right to enjoy your rental property in peace and quiet. That means Florida landlords cannot enter the premises without providing their renters with 12 hours of advance notice prior to entry. If the landlord repeatedly violates this law, there may be cause for tenants to terminate the tenancy before the lease period ends.
The only exceptions to the advance notice requirement for a landlord are as follows.
- In the event of an emergency.
- If the tenant is absent from the property for a long period of time.
- Your tenant unreasonably withholds consent.
When a landlord enters the property, they must do so within the hours of 7:30 am and 8:00 pm. However, the landlord may enter the unit outside these hours provided both the landlord and their renter agrees to another convenient time.
Harassing Your Tenant
There are certain things a landlord cannot do. When a landlord violates these laws they are considered serious enough to be deemed landlord harassment. Landlord harassment is a legally justified reason to break a lease in Florida.
The following are some examples of actions that may constitute landlord harassment.
- Making sexual advancements toward your tenant.
- Threatening your tenant with physical violence.
- Refusing to accept or even acknowledge a rent payment.
- Removing your tenant’s belongings from the unit.
- Locking your tenant out of the rental property.
- Shutting down necessary amenities such as heat, water, or electricity.
Reasons for Breaking a Lease that are Not Legally Justified
On their own, the following reasons don’t offer enough justification to relieve a Florida renter of their obligation to pay rent to their landlord for the duration of the lease.
- Relocating to a new home.
- Relocating for a new job.
- Upgrading or downgrading their home.
- Moving in with a partner.
- Moving out due to separation or divorce.
Landlord’s Duty to Re-Rent
Unlike other states, Florida doesn’t require landlords to mitigate damages after a breaks their lease early. Therefore, a landlord has the right to wait until the lease ends before holding the renter liable to pay for remaining rent under the lease.
Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities as a landlord when breaking a lease is important to your success as a Florida landlord! You should also remain informed of the legal eviction process, rent increase rules and other property-related policies. However, keeping up with federal law, state regulations and legal amendments and changes can be challenging for a new landlord!
For assistance in Florida lease breaking, navigating Florida Landlord Tenant Law, or any other aspect of property management, such as collecting security deposits, reach out to NFI Property Management Solutions today! Our team is ready to help you achieve your goals and increase your ROI.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for expert legal advice. Also, laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. If you have any legal questions or concerns please reach out to a licensed attorney.