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Breaking a lease may be one of the most important things for a landlord in the rental property business to be knowledgeable about. For a number of reasons, you might find some of your tenants breaking their leases. Some reasons are beyond your control, such as marriage, divorce, or work relocation. While these are valid reasons, there are still state laws in place to protect the landlord when a tenant breaks their lease.

This article focuses on the relevant laws in Florida for when a tenant breaks a lease. There are legal components that govern when breaking a lease is sanctioned and acceptable. There are also instances when tenants are liable to pay penalties when they break it for an unlawful reason.

Florida Statutes 83.595

Under the updated Florida Statutes 83.595, the landlord can execute a condition in the lease to provide an early termination offer to the tenant. The amount should be limited to two months of the required rent. Additionally, the tenant must send in a 60-day notice. It is important to state all of this in your Pensacola, Florida lease agreement.

The early termination fee is legally referred to as liquidated or preset damages. This helps the landlord cover his losses for the two months after the lease is broken. Before signing the lease, the landlord may offer this option to the tenant. However, Florida laws allow tenants to decline this offer without the threat of negative consequences to their rental approval.

Conditions Where Tenants Can Legally Break Their Lease in Florida

Tenants are allowed to break a lease without penalty in Pensacola, Florida, as long as these situations are met:

1. Active military duty

When a tenant is an active service member, it is common to be deployed and relocated to various places.

A tenant that is actively a service member, they are protected by SCRA.

They are protected by the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and the protection starts on the date of entering duty and ends within 30–90 days of their discharge date.

To break the lease, an active service member must satisfy the following:

  • Submit a written notice to the landlord in Pensacola, Florida, with an attached copy of the deployment orders or a letter from the commanding officer that states the pending date of deployment.
  • A Tenant must provide evidence that they will be on active duty for a minimum of 90 days.
  • A Tenant must prove that the lease was signed before he entered active military duty.

The end of a tenancy is still subject to 30 days before the rent is due. For example, if a tenant gave notice on the 20th of October and the rent is typically due on the first of the month, the lease will terminate on December 1st. The tenant is still liable to pay for November’s rent.

2. Uninhabitable rental unit/Violation of Florida health code

Under Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Law 83.60, landlords are responsible for providing habitable housing, which includes sufficient hot water, heat, and locks. If proper standards are not met and landlords fail to fix/repair a tenant’s submitted maintenance concern, the tenant is considered constructively evicted.

Landlords are given sufficient time for repairs and maintenance. However, if they fail to take action within the prescribed time accorded to them, tenants can legally break the lease. Tenants are permitted to not pay for termination fees in this case and can move to a new property even before the end of the lease term.

3. Invasion of privacy by a landlord

Landlords must refrain from harassing the tenants or invading their privacy.

A landlord cannot invade a tenant's privacy.
  • The Florida Law (83.53) stipulates there must be a period of 12 hours’ notice prior to entering the property. Otherwise, the tenant has a right to break the lease.
  • Landlords must not engage in unethical behaviors, such as removing doors or windows or changing the locks of the property without a tenant’s approval.
  • In Pensacola, Florida, a landlord is also not authorized to lock out a tenant.

Ways for a Tenant to Break a Lease and Minimize Liability

  • Look for a friend or another tenant they can transfer the lease to.
  • Initiate an honest discussion with the landlord as early as possible. The landlord might understand and agree to renegotiate lease terms or lessen the penalty fee. Put in an early notice to allow a reasonable amount of time for the landlord to look for a replacement.
  • Check the termination offers and settle with paying for the excess two to three months’ rent and consider not refunding your security deposit. There is always the option to negotiate reduced termination fees and for the security deposit to be returned by the landlord.

Consequences of Illegal Lease Breaking

There are consequences a tenant must face when he or she breaks the lease with no proper justification. A tenant earns repercussions when the landlord does not agree with the reason for breaking the lease and the tenant fails to pay the rent for the duration of the lease term. Here are some outcomes:

  • The landlord might decide to withhold a tenant’s security deposit.
  • Facing a lawsuit.
  • If a tenant does not pay the remaining rent for the lease term, they might be subjected to spot payment in case the landlord wins the case.
Illegally breaking a lease can result in a court case.
  • The tenant might be subjected to wage garnishment, which means that a deduction from his pay or bank account will be taken to pay off his liability to the landlord.
  • Negative impact on credit score.
  • If a landlord chooses to seek assistance from a debt collection agency, the tenant may suffer a negative impact on their credit score.
  • Trouble finding a new home.
  • The tenant cannot use the present landlord as a reference to the future landlord. The future landlord may conduct a background check and breaking a lease would not be favorable to the tenant’s application.

The Bottom Line

Breaking a lease in Florida is not a simple matter. For tenants, it is advisable to consult a real estate lawyer to review the situation. For landlords, it is also vital to see an attorney to ensure adherence to the state laws in Pensacola, Florida.

Moreover, if you’d benefit from the services of an experienced property manager, contact RE/MAX Infinity Property Management today!