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What is a Month-to-Month Residential Lease Agreement?
A month-to-month residential lease is an agreement between a landlord and a tenant for one month of residency. This type of lease is automatically renewed each month unless terminated by the landlord or tenant in accordance with state regulations. While it is not legally advised, if there is no verbal or written residential lease agreement, it is implied to operate on a month-to-month basis.
With a standard lease, a renter and their landlord are locked into the specifics of the original lease until the lease ends, which can be very restrictive, especially if there is a two-year lease. Instead, with one of the aforementioned month-to-month arrangements, both parties can terminate the lease in Florida with adequate notice and even alter the lease terms. Of course, any alteration will require that the lease is still in line with state regulations and remains beneficial to both parties.
Even ending a lease of this type is relatively simple. To do so, one of the involved parties must simply provide a lease termination letter to the other party to inform them of a desire for the premises to be vacated. Under Florida state statute § 83.57, a tenancy that has a month-to-month term may be terminated by either of the involved parties when either the landlord or the tenant provides no less than 15 days notice before the end of any month.
For landlords, this is very advantageous, primarily since it provides the owner with an option to eventually rent out the unit at a higher rate to another tenant or even move into the domicile themselves. Additionally, a landlord can also increase the rent as long as proper notice is provided to the month-to-month tenant.
For a tenant, this can also be beneficial, though it’s often understood that these kinds of arrangements are more favorable to owners. Still, if a tenant is waiting for a specific property to come onto the market, a month-to-month lease provides a relatively no-strings-attached way to have a place to stay without being caught up in a potentially binding standard lease agreement. Unlike other states, Floridian renters and landlords must provide the same amount of notice – 15 days.
Month-to-Month Leases versus Fixed-Term Traditional Leases
As mentioned previously, for both parties, this style of lease can be very advantageous, but determining whether this is the way to go can be somewhat tricky. In this section, the advantages of a month-to-month over a traditional lease will be explored:
- The terms are adjustable: As long as the proper amount of notice is provided, a landlord can opt to change the terms of the original lease. This can mean introducing policies for or against pets, policies as they relate to subletting the property to additional tenants, or changes in the smoking policy. If the terms are going to be adjusted, the landlord must provide adequate notice.
- Penalties are more easily avoided: When either party opts to end a traditional lease, penalties like a loss of the security deposit can make the process costly and very prohibitive. Instead, with a month-to-month, there’s no hard-set rule that states that a tenant can’t seek out greener pastures should the opportunity arise. Similarly, should a tenant become troublesome due to a variety of factors, the landlord will have natural recourse to seek out another renter.
- There’s little interaction: With a standard lease, a tenant will have to sign a lease renewal periodically, which takes time and sometimes requires fees. Instead, some renters prefer a month-to-month lease agreement because there’s no set term. As a result, this lease renews automatically.
- It is still subject to Florida laws: Despite the flexibility, many of the laws that affect standard leases still are applicable to a month-to-month. This makes this kind of lease very attractive because, while it may feel “off the books” to some parties, it still ensures that both parties must always act according to their roles. This means that landlords must still maintain the property’s upkeep, and tenants must still obey the rules of the property.
Writing a Month-to-Month Lease Agreement in Florida
When working with a month-to-month lease, it’s absolutely critical that the lease is written in such a way that a robust framework for the lease is established to the satisfaction of both parties. For this reason, the specific conditions in which the property is to be maintained must be provided for. Also, the policies affecting the payment of rent and security deposits should also be clearly laid out. Finally, in excess of the required 15-day notice for vacating the premises, any additional policies surrounding ending the lease agreement should also be established in the month-to-month agreement. Here are a few things to include when writing one of these documents:
To start, the day, month, and year that the lease agreement begins should be noted at the top of the page. Typically, this is provided for in the first three spaces on the top of the month-to-month lease agreement.
Tenant and Landlord Information
Next, all of the involved parties must be clearly demarcated. This is done so that all parties involved in the lease are established legally. For the sake of records, this means that the full names for the tenant and landlord are to be clearly demarcated after the date of the lease signing. For rental situations where there is the potential for added tenants, some additional spaces can be provided on the lease.
It’s essential to provide a complete accounting of everything that’s involved in the lease, and for this reason, information about the property being rented must be outlined clearly. In this section, provide the street address, the number of the property, any cross streets that might help identify the property, the county, and any other details that might be needed for accuracy.
Establishing monthly rent values should be determined next. In addition to this basic information, the due date of each rent payment should also be delineated in this section as well as when the lease will terminate. With a month-to-month, in most cases, it’s established that this happens at the end of each calendar month, at which point the lease will automatically renew.
For this informational section, where the rent can be paid should be noted. Effectively, this section is designed to clarify precisely how a payment can be submitted to the landlord. This is especially useful for those situations where the landlord is using a management company to manage the premises since payments may not go directly to the owner. Additionally, the dollar amount of the monthly rent, as well as the security deposit, can also be placed here so that the information is clearly provided to the renter. If there are other additional charges like a pet fee, then this is also an excellent section to utilize to establish this extra cost. Once all of this information is included, the total amount that’s payable should be also included.
In Florida, it’s common for landlords to charge a late fee when rent is significantly later than has been established in the month-to-month lease. State law does not determine a grace period for Florida renters, but it’s traditional for landlords to allow anywhere between a five- to seven-day period before a charge is levied.
If there are to be animals on the premises, it’s a good idea to establish policies about any pets that may or may not damage the property. In fact, some properties charge a “pet fee” that adds a preset amount to the rent when there is a pet present. This money can be used to repair any damages that have been done to the property by an animal at the end of the lease. To ensure that this information is accurately included, a line for the pet name should be provided. If there isn’t a pet, then the renter can opt to keep this section blank.
In Florida, it is common for many tenants to utilize motor vehicles, and for those properties that provide parking spaces, it’s critical that a framework is presented. For this reason, the number and location of an allocated parking space should be noted here. Additionally, in cases where there is a parking fee, the cost of this fee on a month-to-month basis should be noted as a record for all involved parties. Finally, details about the tenant’s vehicle can be included here. This will help when the landlord is trying to determine if any cars are parked on the property illegally and can serve as a means of ensuring that the occupant’s vehicle isn’t towed away.
Notice to Quit/Vacate
As with other states, a landlord can opt to evict a renter using a Notice to Quit document. This document must be filed in the same county where the property is located. If either party chooses to terminate the month-to-month lease, then in the state of Florida, the address where the Notice to Quit/Vacate should be sent should be established. This can be the property in question or another property where the renter or landlord receives mail.
In addition to the previously outlined sections, it’s also a great idea to include specific tenant expectations so that there’s a framework for the rental arrangement. Here are a few things to consider adding to the document:
- Furnishings: When the property is furnished, it can sometimes be a point of confusion, for both renters and owners, about which items stay in the property after a move-out. For this reason, an excellent month-to-month lease should establish what remains on the property after the renter vacates. This provides legal recourse for the landlord should the tenant opt to remove something that’s set as part of the dwelling.
- Noise: Sometimes, a tenant can be disruptive without knowing it, and to help keep the other tenants content, rules establishing noise expectations should also be created. In many cases, landlords opt to establish quiet times so that all parties are content.
- Garbage removal: Owners often want to keep the premises in neat and tidy shape so that future tenants can be attracted and establish leases on the property. Trash and other detritus on the property can directly affect how viable this is, so firm rules on how trash is to be removed and collected should be included in the month-to-month lease agreement. Garbage removal frequency should also be noted here.
There are a few other terms that should also be established in order to ensure that the lease is as convenient for both parties as possible:
- Property advertisement: In order to ensure that the landlord is making money off of the property, it’s essential for this party to advertise the property when a tenant has announced the intent to vacate. A section should be included that will establish when it’s appropriate to post notice that the property is vacant.
- Abandonment: With one of these properties, the end-of-lease period can occur at any time, and since both the landlord and tenant can establish this period, protections should be provided so that both parties aren’t left in dire circumstances. One of the more essential provisions that should be established is when it is appropriate for a landlord to consider the property abandoned. When this period has expired, the landlord can seek out new renters.
Finally, as a way to close out the month-to-month lease agreement, the signatures of all involved parties must be clearly placed at the bottom of the document. In addition to the signatures, for the sake of clarity, the names of the involved parties should be printed as well on a separate line. If there are any additional tenants that are also taking part in the lease, then they must sign this section as well. Once signed, the document will be binding in the state of Florida.
Florida-Specific Regulations for Month-to-Month Rental Agreements
Aside from the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, Florida’s landlord-tenant laws govern issues of rent and lease, including month-to-month residential lease agreements. The following sections describe laws and regulations that apply to month-to-month lease agreements in Florida.
Landlord Obligations to Maintain Premises
Florida landlords’ responsibilities differ based on the kind of rental unit they provide.
Under Florida Statutes section 83.51, Apartment owners in Florida, aside from complying with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes (para. 1), are legally required to make reasonable provisions for the following (para. 2[a]):
- Extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs
- Locks and keys
- The clean and safe condition of common areas
- Garbage removal and outside receptacles
- Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water
Landlords of single-family homes or duplexes shall ensure the following:
- Premises are in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition
- Screens are installed in a reasonable condition at the start of the tenancy
- Unless otherwise agreed in writing, install working smoke detection devices at the start of tenancy
Providing Notice of Termination of Tenancy
In cases where the landlord decides to terminate a lease on a month-to-month rental unit without any cause, Florida laws state that a landlord give the tenant at least 15 days’ written notice informing the tenant that their tenancy will terminate in 15 days, by which time he or she must have already moved out of the premises.
If the landlord has cause for cutting short a tenancy (such as lease violations or nonpayment of rent), Florida laws allow for the landlord to provide less notice. A three-day notice is given to tenants who fail to pay rent, and a seven-day notice (with or without the option to cure) for tenants who commit lease violations.
In cases where the tenant wishes to end tenancy, Florida laws provide that month-to-month tenants “give at least 7 days’ written notice” to the landlord before vacating or abandoning the premises. This written notice may be sent by certified mail or personal delivery to the landlord before vacating or abandoning the premises, and should include the address where the tenant may be reached.
Under Florida laws, there are no limits on how much security deposit a landlord may require from a tenant. While this is the case, landlords are advised to set the amount of two months’ rent as security deposit.
Deposit money and advance rent are discussed in section 83.49 of the Florida statutes. Below is a summary of what landlords need to know on the matter of security deposits.
Notice of Receipt
Florida landlords must give written notice that they have received a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of receipt. This written notice may be given in person or by mail to the tenant, and should contain the following information:
- The name and address of the depository where the security deposit is being held (or state that the landlord has posted a surety bond as provided by law)
- Whether the tenant is entitled to interest on the deposit
In addition, the written notice should also contain the following disclosure:
Your lease requires payment of certain deposits. The landlord may transfer advance rents to the landlord’s account as they are due and without notice. When you move out, you must give the landlord your new address so that the landlord can send you notices regarding your deposit. The landlord must mail you notice, within 30 days after you move out, of the landlord’s intent to impose a claim against the deposit. If you do not reply to the landlord stating your objection to the claim within 15 days after receipt of the landlord’s notice, the landlord will collect the claim and must mail you the remaining deposit, if any.
If the landlord fails to timely mail you notice, the landlord must return the deposit but may later file a lawsuit against you for damages. If you fail to timely object to a claim, the landlord may collect from the deposit, but you may later file a lawsuit claiming a refund.
You should attempt to informally resolve any dispute before filing a lawsuit. Generally, the party in whose favor a judgment is rendered will be awarded costs and attorney fees payable by the losing party.
This disclosure is basic. Please refer to Part II of Chapter 83, Florida Statutes, to determine your legal rights and obligations.
Upon receiving a tenant’s security deposit, landlords in Florida have the option of storing the money in one of three ways:
- Hold the security deposit in a separate non-interest-bearing account in a Florida bank
- Hold the security deposit in a separate interest-bearing account in a Florida bank
- Post a surety bond in the total amount of the security deposit.
For the last two options, the landlord must return to the tenant any interest the security deposit earns upon the termination of the lease.
Returning the Security Deposit
If no deductions have been made on the security deposit, landlords are given 15 days after the lease terminates to return a tenant’s security deposit, together with any interest earned.
A landlord who makes any deduction to the security deposit has 30 days after lease termination to give the tenant written notice of his or her intention to impose a claim on the deposit, along with the reason for imposing the claim. The notice shall contain a statement in substantially the following form:
This is a notice of my intention to impose a claim for damages in the amount of upon your security deposit, due to (reason for the claim) . It is sent to you as required by s. 83.49(3), Florida Statutes. You are hereby notified that you must object in writing to this deduction from your security deposit within 15 days from the time you receive this notice or I will be authorized to deduct my claim from your security deposit. Your objection must be sent to (landlord’s address).