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.