Usually when someone signs a lease, they do not intend to need or want to break it before the agreed upon time is up. However, unexpected circumstances arise in which peoples’ plans change and they need to terminate their leases. It could be that the current living conditions aren’t up to the agreed upon standards, you want to move in with a roommate or partner, or a job change causes you to need to leave your current rental. The big worry is that breaking a lease in Florida will cause you to lose a lot of money. Florida is somewhat strict about early lease terminations, but there are always ways to work it out! No matter what your circumstances may be, our guide has everything you can expect with respect to getting out of a Florida lease without penalty.
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Florida Lease Laws – Tenant Rights and Responsibilities When Signing a Lease in Florida
Let’s look at what a Florida rental agreement actually is. A residential lease is defined as a binding contract between a landlord and tenant. Traditional leases are “fixed-term,” meaning the dates of occupancy are spelled out in the agreement. Fixed-term leases are traditionally one year, but they can be any period of time that the two parties agree upon. There are also “periodic tenancy” leases that have no set end date. Month-to-month is the most common periodic tenancy lease. Leases agreements in Florida define both the tenant’s and landlord’s responsibilities, and Florida lease laws under Florida Statute Title IV, Chapter 83, Part II states that the landlord is not allowed to change the terms of the lease, increase the rent, or evict the tenant for no cause.
There are plenty of reasons a landlord can evict a tenant. If you do not pay your rent, commit an illegal act, or violate the terms of your lease, they are within their rights to evict you with written notice. If you have failed to pay your rent, the landlord must give you 3 days’ notice to pay or vacate. For a lease violation, you may receive a “7 day notice to cure,” meaning you must correct the violation. If you do not, the landlord can proceed with eviction filings. In extreme circumstances, landlords can issue “7 day unconditional quit notices,” in which the tenant does not have the option to fix the situation. The tenant must leave within 7 days or the landlord will file an eviction lawsuit. You can view more of Florida renters rights when breaking lease here.
What Happens if You Break a Lease in Florida
Lots of people want or need to move before their leases are up. Maybe you got a job in a new city, or are moving back to your hometown to be closer to family. Maybe you want to upgrade to a different location, or want to try out living with a roommate. Whatever the reason, you will need to weigh the financial risks and determine the best move.
It should be noted that most states require landlords to mitigate losses by finding a new tenant quickly. However, that’s not the case in Florida. Landlords are not required to mitigate damages – they can choose to wait to re-rent the property, which keeps you on the hook for the remainder of the lease. Loss mitigation or not, there are still things you can try so you can avoid taking a big financial hit.
Damaged Credit Score
If you break a lease, you’ll probably be stuck with a hefty bill. But if you don’t pay it, you’ll risk damaging your credit score severely. Landlords don’t always report the unpaid debt to credit bureaus, but if you went through a popular apartment building or your landlord is a rental company, you can pretty much guarantee your credit score is going to be damaged.
You Can Get Sued
Imagine if someone shorted you a few thousand dollars. You’d be livid. If you don’t pay the months of rent that you owe when breaking your lease, you can get sued. Unless you have a valid reason to break the lease, you’ll be responsible for the cost of rent and lawyers.
Hurt Your Rental History
When you go to rent somewhere new, you often need to provide references from past landlords. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do this if you leave on bad terms with your current landlord. It can make it so you won’t be able to rent anywhere else, which hurts you even more in the long run.
How To Get Out Of A Lease In Florida
If your landlord does not agree to let you end your lease early, you are responsible for paying rent for the entire remainder of the remaining time, whether you live in the rental or not. However, there are three situations in which a Florida renter can cancel their lease with no penalty. These options are how to break your lease legally:
Active Military Duty
Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, if you enter active military duty after signing a Florida lease, federal law allows you to break it without penalty. This covers all military that is categorized as “uniformed services,” which are as follows:
- Members of the armed forces
- Commissioned corps of the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
- Active National Guard
You must tell your landlord your plans to end your lease due to active military duty with written notice. As soon as your notice is in the mail, your lease will continue for 30 days after your next rent is due.
Health and Safety Violations
If your housing is unsafe or hazardous, you can end your lease with no penalty. Under Florida Statute Title VI, Chapter 83.52, your landlord must maintain a dwelling unit. What does this mean? Florida health and safety codes spell out what is deemed habitable housing, and if yours is determined to be uninhabitable, you may be “constructively evicted” in Florida. Once that determination has been made, you are no longer responsible for paying rent and can move out without penalty. However, Florida lease laws require that you first send your landlord a 7-day written notice, according to Florida Statute Title VI, Chapter 83.60, describing the repairs that are needed. Some examples of health and safety measures Florida landlords are required to provide include:
- Working heat and electricity
- Proper locks
- Clean, safe common areas
- Garbage removal and receptacles
- Running water, hot water
- Well-maintained structural components
- Working smoke detection devices
- Reasonable extermination provisions (landlord must give 7 days written notice if you need to vacate your rental for extermination purposes; they cannot require you to be out of your home for more than 4 days, and your rent should be abated for the time you are not occupying the unit)
If your landlord does not rectify their violations within 7 days, a Florida court may deem you eligible for constructive eviction.
The third justifiable reason you can break your lease in Florida is if your landlord is harassing you. Florida tenants have rights to privacy that should not be violated under the Florida Statute Title VI, Chapter 83.67. You have a right to be given at least 12 hours notice before your landlord enters your rental. Turning off your utilities, removing doors or windows, and changing the locks are other unethical practices that landlords are not permitted to do. If your landlord is repeatedly coming into your residence without proper notice, you may be eligible for Florida constructive eviction.
Minimize Early Termination Penalty in Florida
How can you break your lease without penalty in Florida? If you don’t have a valid reason to break your lease, but you also don’t want to be stuck with a huge bill, you’re not alone. Thankfully, whether you’re breaking an apartment lease in Florida or a home lease, you may be able to minimize the money that you owe by doing a few things.
Be Honest with Your Landlord
If the leasing laws in Florida aren’t in your favor, some honest conversation might be. Landlords are human beings too! You may be able to work together to come up with a perfectly reasonable compromise that leaves both of you happy. Be honest with why you wish to leave – they may be understanding and willing to help you out in some way. A new tenant might pique their interest, as it could mean they can increase rent!
Scour Your Lease
Look over your Florida lease carefully, there may be helpful information there. Check for an early termination clause. If one is written into your lease, you may not be on the hook for as much as you thought. Otherwise, there could be language that shows your landlord did not provide something, and this can be used as a justifiable exit.
Try to Sublet
If your lease does not prohibit subletting, it’s a great option. You may need written approval from your landlord, in which case you should provide them with a letter sent through certified mail (make sure you request a return receipt) that lays out your plans and includes a copy of the proposed sublease.
Find a New Tenant
A landlord might have a hard time saying no if you are able to find a new renter ready to take over as soon as you want to leave! If you haven’t found someone by the time you speak to your landlord, it’s a good idea to offer to help when you’re looking at an early termination of lease in Florida.
Speak to a HUD-Approved Counselor
If you would like more help with ending your Florida lease agreement, there are agencies out there that can assist you. Tenants’ rights organizations have tons of helpful information that can help you navigate the situation. Click here for a list of Florida housing counseling agencies that have been approved by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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