Breaking a Lease in Tampa, Florida – Know the Laws

Out Fast Property Management

When a tenant signs a lease, they are committing to pay rent for the full term stated in the Florida lease agreement. However, circumstances can change, and you never know when one of your tenants may want to break their lease early. 

As a landlord, it’s essential that you familiarize yourself with the laws surrounding early lease termination in your state, including what are the justified and unjustified reasons to break one.

Thankfully, we are experts in Florida rental laws. In this article we’ll help to guide you through the process of breaking a lease early. 

Rental Agreement in Florida

Having a clear lease is essential. When your tenant signs their lease, it is the responsibility of you, the Florida landlord, to make sure that they are aware of what constitutes unjustifiably breaking a lease as well as their rights for justifiably breaking a lease. 

Your lease should also include the proper amount of written notice the tenant must give to you when they break their lease in Florida. In the state of Florida, your tenant must give you proper notice according to the following:

  • 7 days’ notice for week-to-week leases.
  • 15 days’ notice for month-to-month leases.
  • 30 days’ notice for quarter-to-quarter leases.
  • 60 days’ notice. for yearly leases.

tenant-handing-a-notice-to-landlord

Notice to terminate a lease should be hand delivered, mailed, or left in a clear to see place. In many states, landlords are required to make reasonable efforts to re-rent their rental unit when a tenant moves out early, however, this doesn’t apply to Florida.

Additionally, a solid agreement should also include the tenant’s rights to sublet. In Florida, tenants can sublet the rental if this is not explicitly prohibited in the agreement. 

Even if you do not prohibit subletting, you can add a clause to the agreement requiring tenants to obtain your approval before doing so. In that case, the tenant must formally make the request and send it by certified mail. 

As a landlord, you have the power to reject the request if it is based on legitimate factors, as Florida landlord-tenant law states that property owners cannot unreasonably refuse to sublet.

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Florida

In Florida, a lease can only be broken for specific reasons. The below reasons are not enough justification to release a tenant from the agreement, and do not protect them for any ensuing penalties.

  • The tenant bought a house.
  • The tenant is relocating for a new job or school.
  • The tenant is upgrading or downgrading.
  • The tenant is moving in with a partner.
  • The tenant is moving to be closer to family.

person-writing-on-a-lease-agreement

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Florida

In Florida, there are a handful of reasons for which a tenant can break a lease in Florida without penalty. As a landlord in this state, it’s essential that you know the justified reasons for breaking a lease early. These reasons are the following:

  1. Early Termination Clause

Many property owners choose to provide a clause that would allow a tenant to terminate their lease early by paying a penalty fee. For example, you could add a clause in your agreement that states the tenant can break their lease in exchange for two months’ rent. 

  1. Active Military Duty

If a tenant is in active military service and is relocated due to deployment or a change in station, they may be able to legally break the lease. 

In Florida, tenants have to act in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). To legally break their lease, a tenant must:

  • Prove the agreement was signed before they entered active duty.
  • Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the upcoming 90 days.
  • Deliver a written notice to their landlord.

Once the notice is received, the earliest that the tenant can break the lease is 30 days after the start of the next rent period.

american-flag-waving-in-wind-blue-sky

  1. Unit is Uninhabitable

In Florida, the landlord is responsible for keeping their rental property in a safe and habitable condition throughout the duration of a tenancy. If a landlord violates those standards, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted.” As a result, the agreement is effectively terminated. 

These are some reasons a rental property may be deemed uninhabitable by Florida law: 

  • Doesn’t comply with building, housing, and health codes.
  • Pest extermination.
  • Locks and keys.
  • The clean and safe condition of common areas.
  • Garbage removal.
  • Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water.
  • There are no working smoke detection devices installed on the property. 
  1. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation

As a landlord, you always need to respect your tenant’s privacy. In Florida, the following actions can be considered harassment and may be enough justification for a tenant to break a lease early, so it’s important to be aware of them in order to prevent this:

  • Entering the premises without notice. In Florida, the landlord must provide 12-hour notice unless otherwise agreed upon or it’s an emergency. 
  • Changing the locks. In Florida, the landlord cannot lock out a tenant. If a landlord does this, their tenant would be considered “constructively evicted” immediately.

office-with-boxes-for-moving-out-of-house

  1. Violation of Lease Agreement

If a landlord or tenant violates the terms of the agreement, the lease can be legally terminated. When crafting a agreement, be sure to carefully explain the duties and requirements for both parties so it’s easier to determine if a violation has been made in the future. 

  1. Other Justifiable Reasons to Break a Lease Early

The following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate the lease early, although they’re not always automatic and must be determined by court:

  • Domestic violence. In many states, tenants who are victims receive early termination rights. 
  • Illegal or unenforceable rental agreement. Sometimes, an agreement may be deemed illegal and, as a result, is terminated.
  • Mandatory disclosures. Florida law requires landlords to disclose documentation or specific information to tenants before moving in. If disclosure laws are not followed, tenants may be allowed to break their lease early.

Bottom Line

As a landlord, it is crucial to understand your local landlord-tenant laws. Knowing these laws will help to minimize the risk of high tenant turnover rates, and keep you legally protected.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Out Fast Property Management today. We are a leading property management company in Tampa, FL, and have worked with hundreds of landlords and investors. We’d love to work with you too! 

Contact us today at 813-324-5852 or email us at admin@outfastpropertymanagement.com 

Disclaimer: This blog isn’t intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this information may become obsolete at the time you read it. For further help, please get in touch with a qualified attorney or an experienced property management company.

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