In terms of the landlord-tenant relationship, breaking the lease would involve breaching a clause of the lease and usually comes with consequences. But if the reason is legally acceptable, then your tenant can break free from their lease obligations without penalty.
In today’s article, we at Jilsa Management will take you through three important things: when a tenant can legally break their lease, when they can’t, and whether you’re required to “mitigate damages” after a tenant moves out.
Instances When a Tenant can Legally Break their Lease in Florida
Florida tenants can break their lease without any legal penalties for any of the following reasons:
Early Termination Clause
An early termination clause would only exist for one reason: to allow a tenant to break their lease early as long as they meet certain conditions. Usually, the clause requires a tenant to do two things: pay a penalty fee and provide the proper notice.
The penalty fee is normally equal to the rent of two months, while the notice period is 30 days. Once a tenant has met the requirements, you must release them from all further lease obligations as per the agreement.
Active Military Service
Active service members who are either deployed or relocated have a right under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to legally break their lease. This protection starts from the date they enter active duty and ends between thirty and ninety days after discharge.
To terminate the lease, the relief act requires that the tenant meet certain conditions:
- They must provide the landlord with proof that they didn’t enter active duty before signing the lease.
- They must prove that they have the intention to remain on active duty for the next 90 days or more.
- They must provide the landlord with proper written notice, alongside copies of the letters from the commanding officer.
But even with all the requirements above met by the tenant, the lease doesn’t terminate automatically. This occurs 30 days after the next rent period begins.
FL Statute Chapter 83 gives landlords certain responsibilities, among which are to ensure they provide their tenants with a habitable rental property.
Every state, Florida included has specific health and safety codes that landlords must meet for rental units. The Implied Warranty of Habitability requires that a landlord provide the following.
- Hot water
- Drinkable water
- Working electricity
- Heat during the cold months
- Working toilet and bathroom
- Adequate ventilating system
- Up-to-date conformity to building codes
- Reasonable protection from criminal harm
- Sanitary premises, including a home free from pest infestation
If you don’t meet these conditions, then your tenant would be considered “constructively evicted.” As a result, they would no longer need to meet their lease obligations.
Harassment is also another legitimate reason your tenant can use to break their lease without penalty. Landlord harassment can occur in a variety of ways. Such as:
- Changing the unit’s locks without your tenant’s permission.
- Removing a tenant’s belongings from the unit.
- Shutting down amenities that were previously available.
- Making sexual advances toward your tenant.
- Failing to make required or needed repairs when your tenant requests them from you.
- Falsifying charges in order to evict them from the property.
- Refusing to take or acknowledge a rent payment.
- Hiking their rent without following the proper rent control laws.
- Discriminating against your tenant on the basis of their race, color, or any other protected class.
- Retaliating against the tenant after they exercise any of their rights, such as joining or forming a tenants’ union.
- Entering your tenant’s unit without notifying them first.
When to Penalize your Tenant for Breaking the Lease
You can penalize your tenant for breaking their contractual lease obligation if they do any of the following:
- Leave the property to live in another one, no matter where it is.
- Break the lease to move closer to their new place of work.
- Move out to upgrade or downgrade.
- Break the lease to move in with their lover.
- Break the lease as a result of separation or divorce.
As legitimate as these reasons may be, they cannot legally permit a tenant to terminate their lease early under Florida laws. If the lease is broken and you do penalize your tenant, remember that any security deposit issues will need to be resolved
Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in Florida
Florida landlords are not required to “mitigate damages” should a tenant break their lease. This means that you can leave the unit empty after the tenant leaves and then hold them liable for all the remaining rent.
At Jilsa Management, we believe the best way to make the most from your investment is to be knowledgeable and proactive. Especially when it comes to your lease agreement. So if you have any questions regarding this or any other aspect of property management please let us know!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice. Also, laws change, and this content may no longer be updated at the time you read it. For expert legal help, kindly get in touch with Jilsa Management. We’re a leading property management company in West Palm Beach and the surrounding areas!