When you lease out your Florida home, condo, or mobile home, you become a landlord – and that means you have obligations to your tenants that are enforced by Florida law.
In fact, you don’t even need a written lease to be subject to Florida’s rental laws. Under these laws, both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities. Landlords can be fined or penalized if they don’t comply, and tenants can face evictions for violations.
Florida landlord-tenant law is outlined in the Florida Statutes, Part II, Chapter 83 – part of the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act. Here’s what you should know about it.
The Rules of the Lease
A lease is an agreement between you, the landlord, and your tenant. Leases are usually written (and should be!), but oral lease agreements can also be legally binding, according to the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act.
Essentially, a lease dictates the terms and conditions promised by both parties. Written leases may have specific terms and conditions, but they can’t be unreasonable compared to the rules established in the act. The Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act prevails over lease terms and conditions when clauses are called into question.
Tenant Rights According to Florida Rental Laws
At the very core, the Florida landlord tenant law is meant to ensure that landlords provide a private, safe, and secure place for tenants to live in exchange for rent. This means that the dwelling needs to have proper door locks and latches and be free from building code safety violations.
Under this law, Florida tenants:
- Have a right to a private, peaceful dwelling.
- Can use the property in a lawful way once the lease is signed and rent is paid.
- Must be notified in writing of a lease violation and given adequate time to remedy the problem.
- May withhold rent if the residence has become untenantable because a landlord has failed to meet their obligations so long as the tenant gives seven days’ written notice.
- Have the right to move out with proper written notice, which may be up to 60 days before the end of the lease.
If a tenant takes a landlord to court, the losing party may be responsible for the legal fees of the winning party. Landlords are not obligated to provide insurance for tenants, but it’s a good idea to have a landlord insurance policy that protects your investment and your liability.
Landlord Responsibilities According to the Florida Landlord Tenant Law
Landlords have certain responsibilities to ensure that the tenants’ rights are respected. Those responsibilities are:
- To provide at least 12 hours of notice before entering the property to make agreed upon repairs; notice can be shortened or waived in emergency situations.
- To provide a dwelling that has working plumbing, hot water, and heating.
- To ensure the dwelling is structurally sound with working (and locking) doors and windows.
- To ensure the property is free of pests.
- To provide written notice of lease violations with adequate time to fix the problem if it is curable.
- To preserve the security deposit and return it within 15 days after the tenant leaves or provide written notice within 30 days if the deposit won’t be returned.
Landlords in Florida are not responsible for upkeep on mobile homes or other structures owned by the tenant.
Terminating a Lease in Florida
Landlords and tenants may terminate a lease in Florida, but only in certain circumstances and with notice. If a rental agreement does state the duration of the lease, then the duration is set by how often the rent is paid (i.e., if rent is due every week, then the tenancy is week to week). This also determines how much notice either party must give before terminating the lease. Rental laws in Florida law require:
- 7 days for a week-to-week lease.
- 15 days for a month-to-month lease.
- 30 days for a quarter-to-quarter lease.
- 60 days for a year-to-year lease.
Terminating lease with a set duration (e.g., one year) also requires notice. In that case, the landlord can include a notification provision that spells out how much notice the tenant must give if it:
- Requires the landlord to give the tenant notice if the lease won’t be renewed.
- Does not require either party to give more than 60 days’ notice.
Landlords can also include a provision where the tenant owes a predetermined amount of money for failing to give the required notice before vacating the residence. To do this, the landlord must alert the tenant within 15 days before the start of the notification period, explaining in writing:
- The tenant’s obligations under the notification provision.
- The date the rental agreement is terminated.
- All the fees, charges, and penalties the tenant is responsible for.
When Does a Florida Tenant Have the Right to Terminate a Lease?
Tenants can get out of a fixed-term rental agreement before its end date in a few situations. Most of these are caused by the landlord failing to meet their obligations under Florida landlord tenant law. For example, a tenant may have the right to terminate their lease if the landlord harasses them or creates an unsafe situation by violating health or safety codes. In these situations, the tenant can break the lease seven days after giving their landlord written notice.
According to rental laws in Florida, members of the military can also break their leases in several situations, including:
- Receiving change of station orders that move them 35 miles or more away from the rental premises.
- Being prematurely or involuntarily discharged from duty.
- Being released from active duty or state active duty.
- Receiving orders that require them to move into government quarters.
Service members in these and similar situations must give a written notice to their landlords with an effective date that is at least 30 days past the date the landlord receives it.
When Can a Florida Landlord Terminate a Lease?
Florida landlords can also terminate a lease if a tenant fails to meet their obligations, such as:
- Keeping the portion of the residence they occupy clean.
- Using all electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, sanitary, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner.
- Refraining from removing, damaging, destroying, defacing, or impairing any part of the property without permission.
- Paying rent when it is due.
How a landlord goes about terminating a lease depends on the type of violation. Florida landlord tenant law identifies two kinds:
- Curable lease violations: These are violations a tenant should be allowed to fix, such as failing to keep the yard clean or having a pet when the lease forbids it. The landlord needs to notify the tenant of their violations in writing and give them seven days to rectify the situation. If the tenant doesn’t fix the violation, then the landlord may terminate the lease.
- Incurable lease violations: These are violations that tenants shouldn’t be allowed to fix, either because they are serious in nature or they have happened several times within 12 months of a written warning. Illegal activity, continual excessive noise complaints, and intentionally damaging property are all examples of incurable violations that allow landlords to serve a seven-day notice of eviction. An example of an incurable lease violation might be a tenant conducting illegal activity on the property.
Failure to pay rent is another situation. Rental laws in Florida do not provide a grace period for rent so landlords can demand money in writing as soon as a tenant fails to pay. Once three days have passed, excluding weekends and legal holidays, they can terminate the lease..
The Eviction Process Under Florida Landlord Tenant Law
At some point, you may need to evict a tenant (though the right screening process may help prevent that. Check out these 15 landlord tips for more pointers!). Terminating the lease, with all of its notification requirements, is just the first step in the eviction process.
The next step is to file a complaint with the court, which involves a filing fee plus an extra fee for each summons that will be issued﹘one for every tenant. After filing, you’ll be given a court date, and the tenant will be served. This gives the tenant an opportunity to respond.
If the tenant decides not to contest the eviction or the judge rules against them, then the judge grants a court order with the day and time of eviction. This order goes to the sheriff who takes it to the tenant. The tenant has 24 hours to pack their stuff and go before the sheriff returns to padlock the door.
If the tenant fights the eviction successfully, then they get to stay in the rental property for the remainder of the lease.
Landlords must follow the Florida eviction process to regain control of their property. They can’t shut off utilities, take down doors, or prevent access until the eviction is complete. Additionally, landlords can’t evict tenants who report legitimate complaints about the safety and security of the property or who have exercised their rights under fair housing laws. Retaliatory conduct on the part of the landlord can be used as a defense in the eviction process.
Information to Include in an Eviction Notice
Florida has three types of termination for cause notices that start the eviction process. They are:
- Three-day notice to pay rent or quit: A tenant may receive this notice even if they’re only a day late with the rent. This notice should include the amount owed, the rental property’s address, and date when rent must be paid before eviction proceedings.
- Seven-day notice to cure: This notice is used when a tenant commits a curable lease violation. It should list the violation, explain they have seven days to remedy it or face eviction, and note that a second violation may result in lease termination without further warning.
- Seven-day unconditional notice to quit: When a tenant commits an incurable violation, they get this notice to tell them their lease has been immediately terminated and that they have seven days to vacate the premises.
According to Florida landlord tenant law, all of these must be in writing and either mailed or delivered to the tenant. Landlords may leave a copy at the premises if the tenant is absent.
Landlords: Know the Rules
Adhering to the Florida landlord tenant law is not only legally necessary – it also helps protect your property and your reputation. Another way to protect your property is to make sure you have the right property insurance. Get a quote for landlord insurance today!