Leases are an agreement you make with a landlord to occupy and pay for their property for a certain period. When you enter a lease, you’re typically tied to the location until the contract expires, which could be in weeks, a year or longer. Sometimes, though, you get a great job opportunity across the country or you’re ready to get out of the area and start somewhere new in the middle of your contract. Cases like these make it tempting to break your lease.
Most people frown on breaking a lease, as it can lead to significant financial and legal challenges when improperly handled, especially in Florida, where the guidelines are relatively strict. Still, it’s possible to break a lease and Florida, and there are valid reasons for doing so. David McCarthy Moving has the information you need to break a lease in Florida. Once you do, our moving services will help you get on your way to your next adventure.
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Tenant Rights and Duties When Signing a Lease in Florida
When you get a lease for a house or apartment, it will be one of these types:
- Fixed-term lease: The lease specifies start and end dates. The most common fixed-term length is one year.
- Periodic tenancy lease: The lease has no end date. Instead, it is valid for a specific period — like a month — and needs renewal at the end of that term. Month-to-month leases are typically in this form.
Signing the lease indicates a promise that you agree to follow all guidelines set forth so long as your landlord holds up their end of the deal. That means they can only change the leasing terms, including rent, if you both agree on the alteration and update the agreement. They also cannot evict you before the end of the agreed period without cause. Upon signing your lease, many essential home maintenance responsibilities will belong to you. In Florida, your duties as a tenant include:
- Replacing old locks and supplying the landlord with a new key
- Having a continuous hot, running water supply
- Heating your home during the winter months
- Removing garbage from the premises regularly
- Keeping the residence free of pests and vermin
What Happens If You Don’t Fulfill These Duties?
Fulfilling these duties throughout your contract ensures the building stays in decent condition and prevents stress when deciding to vacate the residence. You’ll also be less likely to incur extra fees or lose your security deposit. If your landlord discovers you’re not maintaining these duties, you miss rent payments or you otherwise violate your lease’s terms, they may evict you. They can also evict you for breaking the law if you commit crimes on the rental property.
When you’re not within the terms of your lease, your landlord can request your eviction quickly. If you don’t pay your rent, they can require you to pay or vacate the residence within three days. For other violations, they can give you a seven-day notice to rectify the breach or face eviction.
Required Notice to Break Your Lease
Depending on how long your lease is valid, terminating the agreement requires you to give your landlord anywhere from a week to two months’ notice. Your contract may note the exact timeframe, so read it carefully before sending your landlord a notice. In general, though, you’re required to give:
- Seven days’ notice for weekly leases
- Fifteen days’ notice for monthly leases
- Thirty days’ notice for quarterly leases
- Sixty days’ notice for annual leases
This notice ensures your landlord has sufficient time to prepare and find a new tenant to take over your residence. While many states require landlords to seek new tenants in the case of a broken lease, Florida does not. Even if you provide the proper notice, you may have to pay the remainder of the lease balance.
Result of Breaking a Lease in Florida
If you’re nearing the end of your agreement and it’s possible for you to remain in your residence until the end, you should do so, as breaking a lease without reason can be a significant blow to your finances and reputation. People who break their leases are often at risk for a:
- Damaged credit score: Breaking a lease often comes with hefty fines. When you see this bill on top of all your other moving expenses, it can be easy to put it off and think about paying it later. However, if you choose not to pay the fines right away, your landlord is within their rights to report your failure to pay to the credit bureaus. The longer you wait to pay it off, the more it can affect your credit score.
- Potential lawsuit: By not paying your rent throughout your lease’s term, you may be effectively “stealing” that money from your landlord. Unless you have a valid, legal reason to breach your contract, your landlord can sue you for the remainder of your rental balance.
- Tarnished renting history: Many landlords request references or letters of recommendation from previous landlords before accepting your offer. They want to ensure they’re working with a reliable tenant who’s unlikely to cause issues within their property. If you break your lease and your relationship with your landlord goes south, getting a good reference from them can be challenging. If you plan to rent in the future, try to avoid breaking a lease at all costs.
How to Legally Get Out of a Lease in Florida
While breaking a lease can have consequences for the tenant, there are a few reasons breaking a lease in Florida is acceptable and even expected.
One such case is if you’re reporting for active military service. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers protections for uniformed servicemembers in bankruptcy, forbearance and similar obligations that could keep them from focusing their full energy on defending the United States. As soon as you know you’re being deployed for service, give your landlord your written notification. After serving your notice, your lease will expire 30 days following your next rent payment.
Reporting for active duty is perhaps the best-case scenario for legally breaking a lease in Florida. In most other situations, breaking a lease is only allowed when it affects the tenant’s health and safety. For example, if you find your residence uninhabitable — that is, the housing is hazardous or unsafe in some way — you won’t face penalties in Florida for lease termination. Instead, it’s considered a “constructive eviction.” What qualifies a residence as uninhabitable? Your unit may lack:
- Heat, electricity or running water
- Garbage receptacles and removal services
- Functioning locks and keys
- Up-to-code structural components and smoke detectors
- Clean, safe common areas
- Provisions in case of extermination
Other Reasons to Break a Lease
When you find one or more of these health and safety violations, notify your landlord immediately through written notice. According to Florida law, the landlord then has seven days to rectify the violation or violations. If they don’t, a Florida court will likely qualify you for constructive eviction and you’ll be free to discontinue rent payments and move out of the residence.
Another reason you may be eligible to break your lease is experiencing tenant harassment. While your landlord has a right to enter your unit, you also have a right to privacy. Landlords must give at least 12 hours’ warning before visiting to avoid violating your lease agreement. Other forms of tenant harassment include changing locks, cutting off utilities or damaging your doors and windows without permission.
How to Break a Lease in Florida
Sometimes, cutting your losses and getting out of your current living situation before the end of your contract is the only solution for your unique circumstances. While you’ll likely face some repercussions in your rental reputation and relationship with your landlord, you can do a few things to mitigate the damage. When you approach your landlord about terminating your lease, these tips can help ease the strain:
Reread Your Lease
Before you enter a conversation about your lease with your landlord, ensure you’ve read every section of the agreement closely so you have an informed opinion. You may be able to find some information about what to expect when you terminate your lease or your next steps. You may find a loophole or wording in the lease that builds a stronger case for your leaving.
Be Honest and Willing to Compromise
However you might feel about your landlord, they’re human like you. Try not to approach this conversation from a place of defensiveness or hostility. Be honest about your situation and apologetic about the circumstances. If you’re willing to understand their situation and are sympathetic toward the stress your move may cause, they may be more inclined to understand your perspective and work with you to find a compromise that keeps you both from getting the worst end of a dissolved lease.
Seek Subletters or New Tenants
Your landlord may be more willing to let you go if you come to them with a new tenant or subletter already lined up — especially if they can raise their rent in the process! If you can find someone before moving out, there’s a chance your landlord won’t lose any money. Even if you can’t find anyone before you leave, at least offering to help them in the search process shows a sign of good faith that you only want the best for both of you.
Contact David McCarthy Moving to Help With Your Next Move
Once you’ve learned how to break a lease in Florida, you’re ready to move into your new residence. Whether you’re moving across the country or down the street, David McCarthy Moving will be there to take care of it. With decades of experience, we’ll ensure that the rest of your moving process is far easier than breaking your lease.
Our residential and commercial services cover packing, moving, unloading and storing all your valuable possessions until you’re ready to find the perfect spot for them in your new home. Our dedicated moving professionals ensure your belongings reach your new home safely and make moving easier than ever. Contact us online or by calling 1-941-704-4278 today to schedule your move with our team.