The majority of Florida tenants who sign a lease in Florida intend to stay there until the term ends. However, despite their good intentions, it may not happen that way. The tenant may need to break the lease in Florida for a variety of reasons such as:
- Moving to the new home they bought.
- Moving to a new location for a new job.
- The need to upsize or downsize.
- Moving to start a new military career.
- Due to the violation of their privacy rights by the landlord.
- Breach of the Fair Housing Act.
That said, breaking the lease early without an early termination clause has serious legal consequences. After all, this would constitute an illegal breach of contract. So normally, breaking a lease doesn’t let a tenant off the hook for paying rent due under the lease whether or not they live there. The only exception to this is if the reason for breaking the lease is legally justified.
Understanding how and when someone can legally break a lease early under Florida Landlord-Tenant Law is incredibly important for Florida landlords to understand which is why we at TrueNest Property Management have put together the following article:
When Breaking a Lease Agreement is Legally Justified in Florida
Even though no landlord would want their lease to be broken, it is important to understand how and why it could be. Here are some of the many legally justifiable reasons to break a lease in Florida.
If your tenant is called to active military service after signing the Florida lease agreement with you, they have a right to break their lease. This is as per the federal law (War and National Defense Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 App. U.S.C.A. § § 501 and following.)
The tenant in question must be called to active military duty as part of the “uniformed services,” which includes the following military branches:
- Armed forces
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
- Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Activated National Guard
Before breaking the lease early and moving out of your rental unit, your tenant has the responsibility to provide you with a landlord’s written notice of their intentions. You also have the right to demand a copy of their deployment letters or permanent change of station orders.
After receiving this notice, the tenancy will terminate 30 days after the next rent is due.
Habitability Code Violations
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to provide your tenants with a home that meets Florida’s health codes and safety codes and is considered habitable housing. If a landlord violates this, a court would probably rule that you have “constructively evicted” your tenant for supplying unlivable conditions and remove them from any rent obligation.
The following are some of the conditions that may render the rental unit unlivable during the Florida lease term as per Florida’s standards:
- Pest infestation
- Significant damage to the roof
- Lack of running water and electricity
- A non-functioning air conditioner
- Lack of a heating system during winter
- Mold and mildew growth
- Roof and/or plumbing leaks
Tenants have several options to pursue should the landlord violate any habitability laws. Besides breaking the Florida lease and moving out, a tenant can also choose to:
- Withhold rent. They can withhold rent until you have fixed the problem causing the habitability violation. But to do so, they must have already notified you in writing and given you 7 days to make the repair.
- Report the issue to local authorities. Your tenant may also report your inaction to a local housing authority.
- File a lawsuit. Usually, this is the last resort for tenants if a landlord fails to move forward with anything.
This occurs when a landlord creates conditions that encourage a tenant to leave the rental property. These include:
- Failing to perform requested repairs or maintenance tasks in a timely or responsible manner.
- Withholding amenities that are promised in the lease agreement.
- Exaggerating claims of improper conduct by the tenant so as to evict them.
- Refusing to accept a rent payment during the lease period or not returning any remaining rent.
- Deliberately causing destruction to a tenant’s property.
- Threatening your Florida tenant with financial harm or refusing to provide references to new landlords.
- Coercing, threatening, or intimidating the tenant either physically or verbally.
- Contacting the tenant during odd hours before the lease expires.
- Using profane, abusive, or threatening language.
- Engaging in ‘self-help’ actions by locking out the tenant, removing their belongings, or shutting down their utilities.
- Disclosing to third parties about the debt owed or issue with the security deposit when fixed term lease expires.
Usually, Florida landlords who resort to such actions try to avoid the expense of having to evict the tenant in a legal way when a tenant looks to break a lease.
But no matter what violation your tenant has caused, such actions are still inexcusable and legally unjustified. If a landlord repeatedly violates the harassment laws then they are much more likely to encounter legal consequences.
Violation of Privacy Rights
Under Florida law (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.53), you have the responsibility of providing your tenant a 12 hours notice prior to entering their property. If you don’t then your tenant can’t necessarily immediately break their lease.
But if a landlord was to repeatedly enter the property without notice, then they may find themselves vulnerable.
Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in Florida
As a Florida landlord, you don’t have a responsibility to “mitigate damages” as per Florida landlord-tenant law (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.595). So, you can just sit back and wait for the rental lease termination notice requirements to be fulfilled and then demand to pay rent due from the tenant.
Be advised however that you will still need to resolve any security deposit issues at the end of the tenancy when you re-rent the unit.
Understanding how and when someone can break a rental agreement legally is incredibly important for a Florida landlord as it essentially sets boundaries for the limits of the agreement. So, if you have any further questions, it’s a good idea to contact a professional Broward County property management company like ourselves at TrueNest Property Management.
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change, and this information may not be updated at the time you read it. If you have a question regarding this content, please get in touch with TrueNest Property Management. We’re a quality Broward and Dade County property management company.