Breaking a Lease in Florida - Know the Laws

A lease agreement is a legally binding contractual document. It runs for anywhere between 6 months and a year. Within this period, a tenant must uphold all the lease terms, including paying rent whether or not they live there.

In Florida, a tenant may need to break their lease agreement for various reasons including:

  • To move in with a new partner
  • To move out due to divorce or separation
  • If the unit is no longer habitable
  • To start an active military duty

Normally, breaking a lease isn’t without a penalty fee or other legal consequences. However, there are exceptions to this blanket rule. There are a handful of scenarios that can allow a tenant to legally break their lease without any penalty.

Legally Justified Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Florida

Early Lease Termination Clause

If your Florida lease agreement has an early termination clause then your tenants might be able to use it to end their lease without facing a penalty. Usually, early termination clauses dictate to tenants what conditions they must meet before moving out.

One of the conditions is providing proper written notice; 30 days is standard. This will give a landlord time to re-advertise the rental unit and find a replacement tenant. The other requirement is a fee. Having to fill a vacancy comes with some costs. For example, the costs of advertising the unit and maintenance. The fee is normally equal to 2 months’ rent.

Breaking a lease in Florida

Active Military Service

Is your tenant starting an active military career? Or, have they received deployment or change of station orders and need to relocate? If so, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act gives them certain protections.

That said, the act requires that the tenant meets certain requirements. The tenant must:

  • Prove that they signed the lease before they entered active duty
  • Prove that they intend to remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days
  • Provide the landlord with a copy of the deployment letters from their commanding officer

But even with all those conditions met, the lease or rental agreement doesn’t end immediately. The earliest the lease can end is 30 days after the commencement of the next rent period.

The state of Florida defines a servicemember as a member belonging to any of the following:

  • Armed Forces
  • Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Activated National Guard
  • Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service

Health and Safety Violations

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to ensure your rental property is habitable under federal and Florida law. At the very least, habitable housing must have adequate heating, is free from infestation, is structurally sound, and has running water.

If the property violates Florida health and safety standards, your tenant could be considered to be “constructively evicted.” Resultantly, if a landlord fails to meet their obligations, their tenants would have cause to break their lease.

how to break a lease without paying

Harassment from the Landlord

A landlords tenant can accuse them of harassment if they create conditions that they feel are meant to encourage them to move out. The following are examples of behaviors you’ll need to avoid:

  • Physically intimidating the tenant
  • Threatening the tenant. For instance, threatening to report them to a credit bureau or refusing to provide them with good references
  • Deliberately destroying their tenant’s belongings
  • Creating a nuisance that disrupts their tenant’s peace and quiet
  • Refusing to accept a rent payment
  • Exaggerating or making up notices of improper conduct
  • Withholding amenities, like pool privileges or landscaping services, that were previously provided
  • Not to perform repairs or maintenance tasks promptly

If a landlord does any of these things, especially repeatedly, they may have a lawsuit to answer ti. Harassment is a criminal offense that can lead to court action and even imprisonment.

Privacy Violation

This is another form of landlord harassment. While landlords have a right of entry, that right must be balanced against their tenant’s right to peace and quiet. Under Florida laws, tenants have a right to a proper notice before a landlord enters.

Unless otherwise agreed upon, a landlord must provide their tenant with a 12 hours notice. The only exception to this is in case of an emergency, if a landlord believes their tenant has abandoned their premises, or if the tenant unreasonably withholds consent.

How to break a lease in Florida

Common reasons for landlord entry in Florida are as follows:

  • To inspect the unit
  • To show the unit to prospective renters, buyers, or lenders
  • In case of an emergency
  • If a landlord has reasons to believe the tenant has abandoned the unit
  • Under court orders

Lease Violation

A Florida tenant can also break their lease if the landlord violates the terms of the lease agreement. A good example of a lease violation is illegally raising rent in a fixed-term lease. Usually, unless the lease allows for such a change to rent rates, a landlord must wait until the lease ends to make any changes to it.

Legally Unjustified Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Florida

Some reasons for breaking a lease don’t offer protection against penalties. Such reasons are as follows:

  • Moving out to go live in the new house you bought
  • Relocating to a new school or workplace
  • Moving out either to upsize or downsize
  • Moving in with a partner
  • Relocating to get closer to family and friends

Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in Florida

Florida landlords aren’t required to mitigate damages. As such, a landlord can leave the unit empty for the remainder of the lease, then hold their tenant liable for all the unpaid rent.

Bottom Line

Understanding leasing laws is a vital part of running a rental business. A landlord must also stay informed of landlord-tenant laws, security deposit laws, eviction laws, and more.

If you're a self-managing landlord and would like help managing your rentals contact the experts at Suncastle Properties today!

Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Also, laws change, and this post may not be updated at the time you read it. Please get in touch with a licensed attorney if you have questions or need legal assistance.

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