When a tenant signs a lease, they are committing to pay rent for the full term stated in the 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 agreement is essential. When your tenant signs their lease, it is the responsibility of you, the 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 agreement should also include the proper amount of notice the tenant must give to you when they break their lease. In the state of Florida, your tenant must give you a 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.
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 property when a tenant moves out early, however, this doesn’t apply to Florida.
Additionally, a solid lease 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 lease.
Even if you do not prohibit subletting, you can add a clause to the lease 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 landlords 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 lease, 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.
Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Florida
In Florida, there are a handful of reasons for which a tenant can legally break a lease 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:
Early Termination Clause
Many landlords 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 lease agreement that states the tenant can break their lease in exchange for two months’ rent.
Active Military Duty
If a tenant is an active member of the military 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 lease 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.
Unit is Uninhabitable
In Florida, landlords are responsible for keeping their rental property in a safe and habitable condition throughout the duration of a tenancy. If those standards are not met, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted.” As a result, the lease 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.
- 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, landlords must provide 12-hour notice unless otherwise agreed upon or it’s an emergency.
- Changing the locks. In Florida, landlords cannot lock out a tenant. If a landlord does this, their tenant would be considered “constructively evicted” immediately.
Violation of Lease Agreement
If a landlord or tenant violates the terms of the rental agreement, the lease can be legally terminated. When crafting a lease 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.
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 of domestic violence receive early termination rights.
- Illegal or unenforceable lease agreement. Sometimes, a lease 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.