A lease often lasts for a fixed term, which is typically a year from signing the lease agreement. After the lease term ends, you must either; Move out of the premises Renew the lease with the same or different terms Continue living on a month-to-month lease agreement, in your Florida rental. Once you sign a lease, you are committing to a full term stay. Nonetheless, if circumstances change and you want to move out before the end of the fixed term, you may break your lease. For example, you may move out early if you become sick and need to be moved to a health facility, or if you have gotten married or divorced. However, specific Florida rental laws have been put in place regarding breaking a lease. Breaking a Lease in Florida Prior to the changes of Florida Statutes 83.595, the Florida Law was clear. It stated that if a tenant chose to break a lease by moving out before the end of the lease, the landlord had to accept the tenants choice. It also stated that although the tenant had left the premises they were still obliged to continue to pay the monthly rent unit the end of the lease's term. The law also explained that the landlord was allowed to charge rent until the rental had been rented out again. This method created challenges for landlords, like having to chase tenants down in order to get the monthly rent payments. The renters would be long gone and subsequently, their landlords would begin re-leasing efforts and charge the tenants for the vacant months. Under the new law however, during the signing of the lease, the landlord may choose to offer the renter the opportunity to lock-in a lease-breaking/early termination fee. Under the conditions that the fee is no more than twice the required monthly rent, and that the tenant submits no less than a 60 days’ notice. And of course, all of this must be provided in the Florida lease agreement. This fee is known as “Liquidated” or “preset” damages. It is collected in case the landlord doesn’t find a new renter within the two months of the original lease breaking. This fee is given to the landlord to help cover his or her losses. The landlord must present this option to the tenant at the time of signing the lease. The tenant can then decide whether they want to accept it or not. If the tenant refuses to accept, the law states that he/she should not be denied rental on this basis. A Tenant's Right to Breaking a Lease in Florida There are various reasons why you may choose to break your lease. However, as serious as some of these reasons might be, you may still be required to pay the remaining rent or the termination fee. The Florida Landlord-Tenant Law only allows four main reasons for breaking a lease before the end of the fixed term. They include; • A Call to Military Service One reason might be if you enter the active military service as part of the uniformed services. The uniformed services consist of the armed forces, commissioned corps of Public Health Service, commissioned corps of the national Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, and the activated National Guard. In this case, the federal law allows you to break a lease. However, you must submit a handwritten Florida lease termination notice stating your reason for breaking the lease. Your tenancy will reach an end, 30 days after your rent is next due. • If the Rental Premises is Unsafe or Violates Florida Health/Safety Codes You can break a lease under Florida Statutes Landlord-Tenant Law 83. 60. Law 83.60 focuses on the landlord’s ability to provide a habitable rental premise, under the local and state housing codes. These codes govern housing quality and dictate if sufficient hot water, heat, and locks were provided. Under this law, you have been “constructively evicted” from you Florida residence. In other words, the landlord has “evicted” you by providing inhabitable housing. Under no circumstance should you be required to pay any termination fees. You also have the right to move out before the lease term ends, if your landlord fails to take action after you have submitted a repair concern. • If the Landlord Invades Your Privacy or Harasses You According to Florida Statutes 83.53, your landlord must give you a 12 hours’ notice prior to entering your rental property. The law further states that if the landlord violates your privacy rights then you have the right to break your lease before it ends, without any further rent obligation. Shutting off your utilities, changing the locks without your knowledge or permission, or removing windows or doors are examples of unethical behaviors that fall under this law. How Can You Break Your Lease and Minimize Your Financial Responsibility? • Transfer the Lease to Another Tenant You can avoid paying the early termination fee by transferring the lease to another party. It could be a friend, family, or anyone looking to rent out a house or apartment. Simply approach your landlord and explain your intention to transfer the lease to another party. • Have a Talk with your Landlord If you wish to leave early but don’t want to pay the standard fee, you can try talking it out with your landlord. In this case, you need to be honest about your reason for leaving early (if the reason doesn’t fall in the Florida Landlord-Tenant Law). He/she might understand. However, you must inform him/her as early as possible so they have time to look for a replacement. • Consider the Termination Offers If you are in a hurry to move out but haven’t found someone to transfer the lease to, you can consider the termination offers detailed in your lease agreement. In most instances, breaking lease agreements usually requires the tenants to pay about 2 to 3 months’ rent or forfeit their security deposit. You can negotiate the termination fees with the landlord with the intention to have him/her reduce the fees and return your deposit. Again, provide a detailed and accurate explanation of why you choose to break the lease to increase the chances of the landlord reducing your termination fees. When to Seek Legal Advice After Breaking a Lease in Florida It is important to take legal action if you feel that your landlord is not acting within the law. Some ways that a landlord can take advantage of you include; charging you for breaking a lease, providing uninhabitable housing, or forfeiting your security deposit. In any of these cases, you should seek the advice of a qualified and reputable Florida real estate attorney who will help you file a lawsuit against your landlord. As long as you have the proof, your chances of winning the case are high.
The Orlando real estate market can be a rewarding investment opportunity if you manage to get the right tenants and have a lease agreement that works in your favor. The challenge, however, is that the city and state have many regulations and laws that govern landlord and tenant relations. The violation of these regulations and laws can lead to hefty fines or even possible civil or criminal litigation. It is, therefore, prudent for all Orlando landlords to ensure that he or she has a well drafted rental lease agreement that covers the following essential elements. 1) Parties to the agreement The first and perhaps one of the most important aspects of the rental agreement are the parties (or landlord and the tenant bound by the agreement). Here, make sure to include the full legal names as well as addresses of all the tenants and the landlord. If possible, you should include their registration details such as Driver’s License, Passport or Social Security number. 2) The Property under consideration Details should be clear of the property you are leasing out to a tenant. As such the agreement should describe the physical location, address, street, and the unit number of the property being leased. Accurate descriptions prevent any confusion or future misunderstandings that could lead to litigation. 3) Term or duration of the lease contract You need to precisely define, the date when the rental agreement commences and when it ends. Tenancy agreements can be annual, quarterly, monthly or even weekly as is the case in vacation units however for long term rentals in Orlando, as of the date of this article the minimum term is 7 months. Furthermore, you should detail the requirements that both you and your tenant should take at the expiration of the lease. For instance, should the tenant vacate the premises immediately, will there be room for extension, or are you willing to accept new rent under a month-to-month tenancy arrangement? As well as clarifying the term of the lease, the rental agreement protects the landlord in the event the tenant defaults, decides to abandon the lease or terminate the lease agreement early. 4) The Rental Amount The rental income is the reason you have invested in the property in the first place. Therefore, take the time to make sure the lease contains these details. For starters, state the exact rent amount you will charge on the property. You also need to indicate the date when the rent becomes due, as well as how and where the tenant should pay their rent a that is due. For instance, do they pay using check, money orders or cash? Moreover, you should define what happens in the event of delinquent rent, prorated rent, and returned checks. For example, will late payment attract fines or penalties? 5) Security deposit As a landlord, you need to shield yourself and property from any unforeseen expenses and losses such as unpaid utility bills, unpaid rent or even damage to the property. A sure way to do this is to request the tenant to pay a security deposit. You may ask whatever amount you wish for, however it is recommended to be reasonable as guided by state statutes The agreement should define the dollar amount of the security deposit, and specific wording to meet the requirements of the Florida statues pertaining to landlord and tenant laws. 6) Condition of the Premises It is critical that both you and the tenant document the state of your Orlando property before the tenant moves in. The main reason for this is that you have adequate documentation of the condition of your investment property prior to the tenant taking possession and to document of how you would like it left when they leave. You could create a checklist to document the condition of your property or even take photos of the premises. Furthermore, you should clarify in the lease what happens in the event there is damage to the property. 7) Right to Inspection A landlord has the freedom to inspect your Orlando property to ensure that it is being maintained and kept in proper condition. For this reason, indicate in the Orlando lease agreement that you will need to examine the property from time to time. It is best to refer to Florida landlord and tenant laws regarding proper noticing requirements prior to inspecting your property. This will save you getting yourself into trouble. 8) Property Maintenance and Repairs The law states a landlord must maintain the property in a habitable condition. It places the role of preserving and improving the dwelling squarely on the property owner. It does not, however, mean that the tenant does not hold any responsibility for the property. To avoid miscommunication or future conflicts, clarify in the lease agreement the duties and responsibilities of each party in as far as property maintenance and repairs are concerned. For instance, the tenant should be responsible for keeping the property cleaning and repairing any damage they or their guests cause, while the landlord can be responsible for the routine property maintenance of the systems and structure of the building. 9) Occupants in the property It is not unusual to find tenants utilizing the property in a way that you as the landlord do not like. For instance, a resident could host more people than you would want, have pets that you do not approve of, run a business from the home or even conduct illegal activities in the property. If you want to avoid these types of situations, take the time to indicate how many people you wish to live in the property, what kind of pets you will allow, as well as the kind of activities that can take place. 10) Lease Termination While it the desire of any landlord to have a long term relationship with their tenants, at times it just doesn’t happen. Things might occur during the contract period which might compel either party to want to end the relationship. It is, therefore, prudent if the contract agreement provides a guideline of what conditions can warrant a lease agreement termination, how either party can terminate the relationship, and what steps one must take in such a case. It is equally important to indicate how much notice one should give to end the contract. Although the above items are not all-inclusive, they are some of the main concerns to addressing your Orlando lease agreement. A well drafted lease agreement can save you from future complications. If you own a rental property in Orlando and are looking for guidance in managing your investment feel free to contact us today and we’d be glad to assist you!