Breaking a Lease in Florida for Landlords and Tenants

One of the scariest and most unpredictable aspects of property management for a new or experienced landlord occurs when a tenant decides to break a lease. While there’s no way to know for sure if or when this situation might come up, it’s always good to stay up-to-date on the legal reasons for breaking a lease, how a lease might be broken within legal guidelines, and the consequences for breaking a lease from both a tenant and landlord’s perspective.

In this guide, we’ll review breaking a lease in Florida from all angles.

Key Takeaways

  • Florida law (specifically Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes) outlines the few situations in which a tenant can break a lease legally, and without penalty, in the state.
  • Breaking a lease without a valid reason can expose a tenant to multiple financial and legal penalties that could make renting a property in the future a challenge.
  • Month-to-month leases only require a 15-day written notice by the tenant or landlord to end the rental agreement.

Legal Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Florida

Since a lease is a signed legal agreement, there is an expectation that tenants and landlords will abide by the terms of the lease until the end of the contract. Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes outlines how to break a lease in Florida, detailing the specific situations that allow a tenant to end a lease agreement without penalty.

Laws on breaking a lease in Florida determine these specific situations:

  • Active military duty: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act outlines that a tenant may break a lease upon entering active military service by providing a written copy of their military orders.
  • Uninhabitable conditions: If a property fails to meet established health and safety standards that lead to uninhabitable living conditions, and a landlord doesn’t remedy those issues in a timely manner, tenants may have the right to terminate their lease agreement early.
  • Landlord harassment or privacy violations: If a landlord unreasonably refuses to make timely repairs to a property, does not give at least 12 hours of notice before entering the property, or changes the locks without the consent of the renter, they could be charged with landlord harassment and a lease termination could be permitted by the court.

Finally, breaking a lease in Florida due to medical reasons is not allowed under current law.

How to Break a Lease in Florida Without Penalty

Just because a tenant may have legal reasons to break a lease in Florida early and without penalty doesn’t mean the process is always cut and dry.

If a tenant meets one of the legally accepted and legitimate reasons for ending a lease early, they should provide written notice to the landlord as early as possible, including supporting documentation, wherever possible. Supporting documentation could include military orders or photographs of uninhabitable living conditions.

Examples of uninhabitable conditions could include any of the following:

  • Rodent or insect infestation
  • Major structural problems in walls or ceilings
  • Presence of hazardous materials like mold, mildew, lead, or asbestos
  • Serious plumbing problems, such as leaks, clogs, or burst pipes

Florida law requires a landlord to address these conditions in a reasonable timeframe, but the exact timing depends on the severity of the issue. Tenants must provide documented evidence, in writing, to the landlord before attempting to break the lease. For uninhabitable conditions that reach emergency levels, such as severe plumbing leaks or no heat during winter, the timeframe for remediation could be less than seven days.

For all month-to-month leases, the landlord or the tenant must provide at least 15 days’ written notice before the end of the rental period to end the lease, and no other reason or cause must be cited for the end of the month-to-month lease.

How Tenants Minimize Financial Responsibility When Breaking a Lease

Breaking a lease can be a stressful and complicated process, and it can sometimes feel like there is no way out. But while it can be a daunting experience, here are some examples of how to break a lease in Florida:

  • Review the lease: Understanding the terms of the lease and the situations in which the lease could allow you to leave a property early is the first step. Some leases include a clause specifying situations that could allow for an early termination.
  • Provide notice: Breaking a month-to-month lease in Florida requires at least 15 days’ written notice. For a lease with a firm end date, speaking to the landlord in certain situations could allow for a new exit date to be negotiated.
  • Help find a new tenant or sublet the unit: While not all leases allow for a sublet, finding someone to occupy the unit in your place could be one way to exit the lease before the fixed term ends. Ensure you’ve read the lease agreement closely before subletting to another tenant to avoid breaking the lease terms.

Tenant Consequences of Breaking a Lease in Florida

Breaking a lease in Florida without a qualifying condition could result in a number of penalties for a renter. These include:

  • Early termination fees: Depending on the lease agreement that’s been signed, a fee for ending your lease early could be assessed. Typically, this fee equals one to three months’ rent.
  • Loss of security deposit: A tenant may forfeit their security deposit for ending a lease early and without cause
  • Credit and legal issues: Because breaking a lease generally results in unpaid debt to the landlord, landlords can report this unpaid debt to credit bureaus, which will make it more difficult to rent an apartment in the future
  • The most extreme consequence of breaking a lease in Florida is eviction. Read more about the eviction process for the state of Florida.

Preventing Tenants From Breaking The Lease

While there are no ways to guarantee a tenant will never break a lease, a landlord can take steps to minimize the risk.

  • Rent to qualified tenants: A comprehensive background and credit check can ease your mind that a tenant will see the lease through to term with as few challenges as possible. TurboTenant offers a comprehensive screening and credit check for tenants that can be completed in as little as five minutes, as well as a Florida Rental Application to simplify the process.
  • Clear lease agreements: Making sure that the lease agreement is clear, well-written, within legal guidelines, and understood by the tenant will go a long way to ensuring there’s no confusion in what is and is not allowed during the term of the agreement. Here, you can find an example of a legally approved template lease for the state of Florida.
  • Maintain a positive relationship with your tenants: Making sure you’re responsive (within reason, of course) to the needs of your tenant, keeping the property in good condition, and finding compromises where needed will reduce the risk of a tenant breaking a lease early. TurboTenant’s rental management software provides multiple tools to keep those lines of communication open and healthy.

Legal Help for Landlords and Tenants

The ins and outs of the law in the U.S. can be a complicated mess of guidelines, statutes, and legal jargon. Fortunately, multiple resources are available to tenants and landlords to help untangle any questions or disputes.

  • Florida Bar Association: An in-depth resource of legal analysis and referral services for legal counsel for both landlords and tenants.
  • Florida Housing Coalition: Provides resources and advocacy for affordable housing and tenants’ rights.
  • Florida HUD: Offers information on federal housing laws, tenant and landlord rights, and various assistance programs.

Breaking a Lease in Florida FAQs

How can I break my lease without penalty in Florida?

Breaking a lease in Florida without penalty requires the tenant to meet specific criteria. The most common legally allowed reasons to break a lease are:

  • Active military duty exceptions
  • Uninhabitable conditions of the rental property
  • Landlord harassment or privacy violation

How much does it cost to break a lease in Florida?

The exact cost to break a lease in Florida will heavily depend on the terms of the lease agreement. Most leases require the tenant to pay an early termination fee, which often equals one to three months of rent. Tenants might also be responsible for all rent owed until a new tenant is found or the lease term expires. Lastly, there could be legal costs to consider if the landlord chooses to pursue eviction or other legal remedies.

Does breaking a lease hurt your credit in Florida?

Breaking a lease in Florida can hurt your credit if it leads to unpaid rent or legal action taken by the landlord. The landlord can choose to report any unpaid debt to credit bureaus, which would negatively impact your credit score and could impact your ability to rent property in the future.

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