How To Break a Lease in Florida Without Penalties
A Florida lease agreement is a legally binding document that all signing parties must abide by, but there are situations in which breaking the lease is necessary. Lease breaking in Florida, however, can result in penalties and fines. You may also be liable for further rent obligations, potentially have your credit score lowered, and find yourself struggling to secure future rental agreements.
For anyone wanting to learn how to break a lease in Florida the proper way – without penalties and legal upset – keep reading on. This article discusses how to terminate your rental agreement without violating Florida law.
What Happens if You Break a Lease in Florida?
There are various situations in which you may need to break a Lease Agreement. Perhaps you received a job offer in a new city or state, are expecting a baby and need to up-size your rental property, or have ended a relationship and can no longer afford the rent on your own. Even with legitimate personal reasons such as these, breaking a lease in Florida can result in several adverse outcomes:
· Penalties & Fines: Your landlord may seek legal action if you break the lease without following the proper procedure. If the courts agree with your landlord, you may be subject to court fines and penalties.
· Future Rent Payments: You may be held liable for future rent payments for the remaining duration of the Florida lease agreement. It is also common for tenants to forfeit their security deposit when exiting a lease prematurely.
· Impacted Credit Score: If reports are made to credit reporting companies about your early lease termination, this can negatively affect your credit score. In turn, this can make it harder for you to procure a new rental agreement.
These negative consequences can be avoided if you know how to break a lease in a manner that doesn’t violate Florida laws on rental agreements and there is a justifiable reason to terminate the contract. We provide below a step-by-step guide on how to do this.
When Breaking a Lease Is Justified
If you’re tied into a rental agreement that no longer serves you, you’re probably wondering, “How can I break my lease without penalty in Florida?” Generally, this is only possible if there is a justifiable reason to break your lease, such as active military duty, tenant rights violations, or health and safety violations:
· Active Military Duty: Any member of the uniformed services has the right to break a lease in Florida if he or she enters active military duty after signing the rental agreement. This is legal under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
· Violation of Tenant Rights: If the landlord violates tenant rights, the landlord has not held up his or her side of the rental agreement. Therefore, the tenant can walk away from the contract without paying penalties. Examples include failing to give notice when visiting the property, unilaterally changing the locks, or showing discrimination in any way.
· Health & Safety: Florida Statute 83.51 states that your landlord must supply functioning heat and water facilities, exterminate any pests, keep common areas clean and safe, and fulfill other landlord obligations. When a landlord violates Florida health and safety laws, tenants are justified in breaking the lease.
These are the three main reasons to justify breaking a lease in Florida. Others include an illegal and unenforceable contract, domestic violence, or violation of the lease terms, such as your landlord increasing the rent mid-way through a fixed-term contract.
How Can I Legally Break My Lease in Florida?
Should you have a justifiable reason for breaking your lease, you can exit your rental agreement without legal repercussions or penalties. The precise steps for lease breaking depend on what the reason is, as explained below:
Terminate under the service members civil relief act
The SCRA protects service members who need to relocate to complete their military duties. This federal law applies to members of the armed forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, commissioned unit of the Public Health Service, and members of the Active National Guard.
You must submit written notice to your landlord if you need to relocate to complete your active military duties. Once you have served notice, your tenancy becomes ineffective thirty days after the next date on which rent is due.
Landlord harassment & privacy violations
Florida laws are also in place to protect tenants from harassment from their landlords. For example, a landlord must provide at least twelve hours’ notice before showing up at the property. The landlord is also prohibited from turning off utilities, changing the locks, or removing doors on the property without warning.
Violation of these statutes also makes you eligible to declare constructive eviction. Similar to Florida health and safety violations (see below), you must file a lawsuit against your landlord. If there is enough evidence of harassment, you will be legally entitled to leave the rental property without any fees or other penalties.
Health & safety violations
You can lawfully break your lease if your rental property is uninhabitable and violates Florida health and safety codes. However, you must first contact your landlord explaining the condition and why the property is in breach of health and safety laws. You will need to send your landlord seven days’ written notice describing the necessary repairs that must be made.
Should your landlord make the repairs and correct the damages, you cannot break your lease without being subject to penalties. However, if your landlord fails to rectify the violations within seven days, you may be eligible for constructive eviction. You will need to file a lawsuit against the landlord. The court will assess your claims and if it determines that the landlord is non-compliant with state laws, you will be able to lawfully exit the lease agreement.
Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking
We have covered some justifiable reasons for breaking a lease in Florida. There are many situations, however, that are deemed insufficient to release a tenant from his or her legal obligations, such as:
· The tenant bought a property and no longer needs a rental;
· The tenant needs a smaller or bigger rental property based on changed living circumstances;
· The tenant is moving in with a partner or moving out following a breakup;
· The tenant wishes to relocate to move closer to family and friends;
· The tenant needs to move for work and employment opportunities.
What happens if you break a lease in Florida based on an unjustifiable reason such as the ones mentioned above? Unfortunately, you will likely be subject to penalties, be required to pay future rent payments, forfeit your security deposit, have your credit scores lowered, possibly face difficulties in securing future rental agreements, and be subject to further liability in other ways.
How Can I Break My Lease in Florida Legally on My Own?
To legally break a lease in Florida on your own (without filing a lawsuit), you must serve written notice to your landlord as per the early termination clause detailed in your contract. This enables you to terminate your lease before the fixed period is over in exchange for paying a fee.
Serving your landlord written notice can be done in the following ways:
1. Hand-delivering a written copy to your landlord
2. Mailing a copy to your landlord’s correspondence address
3. Leaving your written notice in a conspicuous place, such as the front door of the property
Under Florida Statute 83.57, you must also provide enough notice to your landlord. Lease termination notice requirements depend on the lease terms. A weekly lease requires at least seven days’ notice, a monthly lease at least fifteen days’ notice, a quarterly lease at least thirty days’ notice, and a yearly lease at least sixty days’ notice.
What if I Cannot Break My Lease Myself?
If you cannot break a lease by yourself, we suggest contacting a law firm specializing in Florida property law and rental agreements. There are many experienced and reputable Florida attorneys, so have a consultation with a few and find a lawyer who best suits your needs.
Once you have chosen your attorney, you will need to provide a copy of your signed lease and discuss your situation. Your attorney will use his or her specialized knowledge to see if there exists a legally justifiable reason for premature termination. Should there be one, your attorney will then take the necessary steps to begin the process, such as filing a lawsuit on your behalf and gathering all the evidence required to help win your case.
How To Minimize Early Termination Penalties
Anyone without a valid reason to terminate a lease can reduce the penalties and fines outlined in the early termination clause by following a few good practices. Although technically you have not held up your side of the legal contract, these practices help keep your landlord happy and therefore reduce the likelihood of the landlord taking legal action.
Be honest with your landlord
When breaking a lease in Florida, honesty is always the best policy! Be candid with your landlord about why you want or need to end your rental agreement prematurely. If you have an exciting new job opportunity or need to move to be closer to a sick relative, your landlord will likely understand. He or she may also be willing to help you move without imposing charges.
Sublet your property
After being honest with your landlord about your reasons for breaking the lease, ask if it would be possible for you to sublet the property. This is a great way to ensure that the landlord still receives rent each month while allowing you to freely rent somewhere else. Some rental contracts may expressly allow for subletting, so it may even be possible to do this without your landlord’s approval.
Find a new tenant
Rather than subletting, why not try and find someone to take over your lease? If you have found a replacement before speaking to your landlord, it’s unlikely the landlord will have any issues with you leaving, considering that he or she will continue receiving the same monthly payments. In fact, a new tenant might be beneficial, as your landlord can legally increase the rent of fixed-term contracts!
Do I Need an Attorney To Break My Lease in Florida Legally?
You do not need to hire an attorney if you wish to break a lease in Florida. As discussed above, if you are in active military service, you can serve notice to your landlord while being protected from legal repercussions. You can also use the early termination clause to prematurely break a lease in exchange for paying a penalty.
It is advisable, however, to have an attorney if you are exiting your lease based on (1) health and safety violations, or (2) harassment and privacy violations. These are justifiable reasons for breaking a lease in Florida without penalties, but both require the involvement of the judicial system and specialized knowledge of the law.
There are many lawyers who are experts on how to lawfully break a lease and can use their advanced knowledge to help you file a lawsuit and ensure the best possible outcome for you. They help take the stress away and free up time you can otherwise spend looking for a new rental property. Find and compare reputable Florida attorneys specializing in real estate law by clicking here.
Breaking a lease in Florida without penalties is possible, so long as there is a justifiable reason for doing so. The three main justifiable reasons are being on active military duty, tenant rights violations, or health and safety violations. Unless you are a member of the uniformed services, you will have to file a lawsuit against the landlord asserting a claim for violation of your Florida lease agreement. This is usually best done with the help of a qualified attorney specializing in real estate law.
Anyone that would rather not take legal action can still lawfully break a lease in Florida under the early termination clause. Under this scenario, you will need to pay the penalty and give written notice as specified in the contract. You can, however, minimize these fees by being honest with your landlord and helping to find a replacement tenant.