Despite a tenant’s best intentions to stay for the entire lease term, there are reasons why they may choose to leave early. They may, for instance, instance, be looking to move closer to loved ones, or perhaps they may need to move due to a new job opportunity.
Whatever the reason may be, though, leaving before the expiry of a fixed-term lease is called breaking a lease. As a landlord, you’d be within your right to penalize the tenant for doing so, especially if they leave without paying the remainder of the rent due under the lease.
However, there are situations where a tenant legally breaks their lease without needing to pay the remaining due rent or other penalties. To learn more about breaking a lease in Florida, keep on reading.
Rights & Responsibilities a Tenant has when Signing a Lease in Florida
In Florida, a tenant obtains certain rights and responsibilities under Florida’s landlord-tenant law. The state’s landlord-tenant law gives tenants the following rights in regards to the lease. The right to:
- Due process before they can be evicted
- Live in a safe and habitable dwelling
- Live in peace and quiet
A tenant’s main responsibility is to pay rent for the entire term of the lease, usually a year. There are exceptions, should the tenant have a legally justified reason for breaking the lease early.
Legally Justified Reasons for Breaking a Lease in the State of Florida
The Tenant is Starting an Active Military Duty
Tenants entering active military service have a right under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to break the lease under federal law. The tenant must be part of the “uniformed services,” which includes:
- The Activated National Guard
- Armed forces
- Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
To break the lease in accordance with the act, the tenant is required to provide the landlord with:
- A written notice of their intent to terminate their lease for military reasons
- Proof that they intend to remain on active duty for more than 90 days
- A copy of the deployment orders or permanent change of station from their commanding officer
Once the tenant has met such requirements, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the next rent period starts.
You have Not Maintained the Unit to Habitable Standards
Florida requires rental units to meet specific health and safety codes. If you aren’t able to meet those standards, this can provide your tenant with legal grounds to break their lease and move out.
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to make necessary repairs in a timely manner. And even more specifically, Florida landlords are required to make repairs within 7 days once notified by their tenant.
Besides moving out, your Florida tenant may also be able to pursue other alternative remedies including:
- Reporting you to a relevant government agency
- Withholding rent until you have made those repairs
- Repairing the damage themselves and then deducting the costs from next month’s rent
Note however that for a tenant to exercise any of these rights, the problem must be truly serious, such as lack of an essential service like heat.
You’re Found Guilty of Harassing Your Tenant
Harassment is when a landlord creates conditions that are meant to make a tenant’s life uncomfortable. The following are examples of actions that constitute landlord harassment:
- Verbal or physical threats to a tenant
- Sexual harassment
- Cutting off previously available amenities to a tenant
- Removing the tenant’s personal belongings from the unit
- Not providing proper notice
- Illegally entering the tenant’s unit
- Refusing to accept a rent payment
- Making false charges to evict the tenant
- Creating unnecessary disruptions or nuisances to force the tenant out
All these actions are illegal in the state of Florida. If a court finds them serious enough, your tenant may have grounds to break the lease. Your tenant could also sue you for damages arising from the harassment.
You’re Found Guilty of Violating Your Tenant’s Privacy
In Florida, not only must you provide 12 hours' notice before entry, but the reason must be legitimate as well. Justified reasons for landlord entry include:
- Under court orders
- To carry out an inspection
- To show the unit to prospective lenders, buyers, and tenants
- If you have reasons to believe your tenant has abandoned the premises
- In case of an emergency
- To make needed or requested repairs
There are exceptions to the 12 hours’ prior notice, however. They are as follows:
- If otherwise agreed upon
- In case of an emergency
- In case of property abandonment
You Fail to Abide by the Terms of the Lease Agreement
Just like a tenant, landlords have a responsibility to abide by the lease terms. If you don’t, that may be enough justification for your tenant to break the lease.
The following are some of the obligations you have to your Florida tenant:
- Make repairs within a reasonable period of time after being notified
- Treat tenants fairly and with respect per the Fair Housing Laws
- Ensure your tenant's right quiet enjoyment is being respected
- Serve tenants a 12-hour notice prior to entering their rented units
- Follow the proper eviction process as set out in Florida laws
Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in Florida
Unlike some other states, Florida landlords don’t have a duty to “mitigate damages” by re-renting their units after a tenant leaves. This means that you may be able to hold your tenant liable for all rent due under the lease.
There you have it, some of the legally justifiable reasons for a tenant to break their lease. As a landlord you should also stay informed on various rental laws including security deposit laws, rent increase policies and squatters right.
If you would like help managing your rental properties contact the experts at Sun-Pro Realty & Management today!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. If you need expert legal help, please get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.