Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Florida, when they can’t, and if a landlord is required by Florida law to make reasonable effort to re-rent.
Before we address the legally acceptable reasons to get out a lease early without penalty, it’s important to understand the notice requirements in Florida to end a tenancy in general.
Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Florida
In Florida, a tenant is required to provide notice for the following lease terms (Fla. Stat. 83.57):
- Notice to terminate a week-to-week lease. Not less than 7 days prior to the end of any weekly period.
- Notice to terminate a month-to-month lease. Not less than 15 days prior to the end of any monthly period.
- Notice to terminate a quarter-to-quarter lease. Not less than 30 days prior to the end of any quarterly period.
- Notice to terminate a yearly lease. Not less than 60 days prior to the end of any annual period.
Delivering Notice in Florida
Notice shall be served by the following methods:
- Hand delivery.
- Mail a copy of the notice via regular mail, certified mail or registered mail.
- Leave the notice in a conspicuous place (i.e., on the front door of the premises).
Conditions for Legally Breaking a Lease in Florida
There are a handful of scenarios where a tenant can legally break a lease in Florida without penalty. We’ll go through each of them below.
1. Early Termination Clause
Some modern lease agreements may provide specific terms that would allow a tenant to terminate a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. Read over the lease and look for language that outlines agreed-upon terms for ending the lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the amount of the fee (i.e., equal to 2 month’s rent) and the amount of notice required (i.e., 30 days).
If a lease agreement contains an early termination clause, before executing it and paying the penalty fee, read further to learn about other conditions that, if met, would not require a penalty fee to be paid.
2. Active Military Duty
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. The protection begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30-90 days after the date of discharge.
To break a lease in accordance with the relief act, a tenant must:
- Prove the lease was signed before entering active duty.
- Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days.
- Deliver a written notice to the landlord (example, page 2), accompanied by a copy of the orders to deploy / Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.
With that said, the lease does not terminate immediately. Once the notice is delivered, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period. For example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st therefore, rent is still due for the month of April.
In Florida, the term “servicemember” means a member of the armed forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard.
3. Unit is Uninhabitable
Most states have specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units, and Florida is no different.
If those standards are not met, proper notice is given by the tenant and the repairs/fixes are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted”. As a result, the obligations of the tenant under the lease are no longer required, given that the landlord has not met their own responsibilities under the Florida landlord-tenant law. According to Florida state law, landlord duties to provide habitable premises include the following (Fla. Stat. 83.51):
The landlord at all times during the tenancy shall:
- Comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes.
- Where there are no applicable building, housing, or health codes, maintain the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition.
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord shall, at all times during the tenancy, make reasonable provisions for:
- The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs. When vacation of the premises is required for such extermination, the landlord is not liable for damages but shall abate the rent. The tenant must temporarily vacate the premises for a period of time not to exceed 4 days, on 7 days’ written notice, if necessary, for extermination pursuant to this subparagraph.
- Locks and keys.
- The clean and safe condition of common areas.
- Garbage removal and outside receptacles therefor.
- Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water.
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the landlord shall install working smoke detection devices. As used in this paragraph, the term “smoke detection device” means an electrical or battery-operated device which detects visible or invisible particles of combustion and which is listed by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., Factory Mutual Laboratories, Inc., or any other nationally recognized testing laboratory using nationally accepted testing standards.
For more information on Florida habitability laws, click here.
4. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation
If the action is serious enough, harassment by a landlord or their violation of a tenant’s privacy may be enough justification for relieving a tenant of their obligations of the lease.
- Landlord Entry. Florida state law requires that a landlord provide 12 hours notice unless otherwise agreed upon, in the case of an emergency, a tenant unreasonably withholds consent or the tenant is absent form the premises for a period of time ((Fla. Stat. 83.53(2)). If the landlord repeatedly violates a tenant’s rights to privacy or does removes windows or doors, turns off utilities, or changes the locks, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted,” as described above.
- Changing the locks. In Florida, a landlord cannot lock out a tenant.
5. Violation of Lease Agreement
If a landlord violates the terms of the lease agreement, it may be enough justification to break the lease and relieve the tenant from their own obligations (i.e., illegally raising the rent during the fixed period). Because each lease agreement is different, carefully read over the duties and requirements for both parties to understand if a violation has been made, and if there is language describing how certain violations are to be handled.
In Florida, if a landlord includes an unconscionable provision in the rental agreement (Fla. Stat. 83.45):
- If the court as a matter of law finds a rental agreement or any provision of a rental agreement to have been unconscionable at the time it was made, the court may refuse to enforce the rental agreement, enforce the remainder of the rental agreement without the unconscionable provision, or so limit the application of any unconscionable provision as to avoid any unconscionable result.
6. Other Reasons
A tenant may have alternative reasons to terminate a lease early. For example, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate the lease early, but are not always automatic and must be determined by a court:
- Domestic Violence. Many states protect tenants who are victims of domestic violence such as early termination rights. If a tenant is in a domestic violence situation and want to move, check with local law enforcement regarding laws that may apply in domestic violence situations.
- Illegal or Unenforceable Contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable. (i.e. contracting with a minor)
- Mandatory Disclosures. Many state and local laws require landlords to disclose documentation, policies, or specific unit information to tenants prior to moving in. Disclosure laws typically impose heavy fines or legal ramifications to landlords if they are not followed. In rare cases, they contain penalty provisions that may allow you to break your lease.
- Senior Citizen or Health Issue. Some states offer age or health-related lease-breaking arrangements that permit early lease termination. If a tenant has a qualified disability the tenant may request early termination as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking in Florida
The below reasons are generally not enough justification (on their own) to release a tenant from the obligation of their lease term, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.
- They bought a house.
- They are relocating for a new job or school.
- They are upgrading or downgrading.
- They are moving in with a partner.
- They are moving to be closer to family.
Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons without court approval or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants. If a tenant would like to break a lease for any of these reasons, the tenant should ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination.
Florida state law does not require landlords to make a reasonable effort to find a new tenant.
Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Florida
If the lease does not prohibit subletting, then a tenant may be in the clear to do so. However, the lease might contain a clause requiring a tenant to obtain the landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get landlord approval, send them a letter through certified mail, with a return receipt requested, outlining the terms of the sublet lease agreement. Certified mail is the only proof of delivery that most courts will accept if proof is needed that a tenant has notified the landlord.
The letter should include the following information:
- Sublet term.
- Name of proposed subtenant or assignee.
- The permanent home address of proposed subtenant or assignee.
- Your reason for subletting or leaving permanently.
- Your new address during the sublease if applicable.
- The written consent of any co‑tenant.
- A copy of the proposed sublease.
If a landlord rejects the tenant’s request, know that they can only refuse the proposed subtenant based on legitimate factors. The law says landlords cannot unreasonably refuse to sublet.
For more information and to get a FREE Florida sublease agreement click here.