In Florida, residential lease agreements are necessary for landlords and tenants to ensure that both parties are aware of and fulfill their statutory duties and obligations. Florida residential lease agreements are governed by a version of the Uniform Landlord Tenant Law. Although you may have a verbal lease agreement, a written agreement is required if the lease is for at least one year.
A written agreement includes necessary disclosures, security deposit payments, rent and duties of both parties. There are also provisions that may not be included in a lease agreement or the landlord faces penalties and fines.
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All Florida residential lease agreements must contain certain basic provisions as set forth below:
- Names and address of the landlord or property manager to whom rent is paid
- Description of the leased premises
- Names of the tenants who may reside on the premises
- Amount of rent and due date for each month
- Late fees and amount
- Duration of the lease
- If lease converts to a month-to-month after original duration expires
- Security deposit amount and terms regarding deposit
- Limitation on uses of the premises
- Right of entry by landlord upon reasonable notice
- Obligations of the landlord
- Duties of the tenant including payment of utilities, water and garbage removal if applicable
- Notice by tenant or notice to surrender (15 days or 60 days for yearly lease)
- Subletting prohibitions
- Pet clause
- Radon gas warning
There are other provisions that may be included as well:
- Tenant remedies for breach of lease by landlord
- Landlord remedies for breach of lease by tenant
- No alterations to premises without landlord consent
- Notice by tenant of planned extended absences
- Early termination fee or liquidated damages for early termination in a separate addendum to the lease agreement with specific language
There are also provisions that a landlord may not include in a lease:
- that tenant waives the right to sue the landlord for personal injury or for any other cause of action or remedies or liabilities granted by rights under state or federal law including the right to a jury trial
- that landlord may immediately terminate the lease for nonpayment of rent or for breach of any other provision or take measures to evict the tenant without a court order
- that landlord may terminate lease if the tenant bears a child or becomes pregnant
- that a tenant may not display the American flag
Under the federal Fair Housing Act and state laws, landlords may not refuse to rent to anyone on the basis of color, religion, creed, national origin, family status, gender or disability.
Florida law does not limit the amount of a security deposit that a landlord may require. The lease, though, must contain a provision regarding how the deposit is to be handled. Florida law specifies options for how you handle your tenant’s deposit:
- place the deposit in a separate, non-interest bearing account
- place the deposit in a separate, interest bearing account and give tenant 75% of the annualized average interest rate payable on the account or interest at 5% per year, simple interest
- post a surety bond in the amount of the deposit
- within 30 days advise tenant in writing of the name and location of the security deposit
When your tenant vacates at the end of the rental term, you have 15 days to return the full deposit to the tenant if nothing is to be withheld for damages. Otherwise, you have 30 days to send by certified mail an intent to impose a security deposit claim form. Language advising the tenant that he or she may challenge or dispute the claim must be provided in your notice. A failure to do this within 30 days forfeits your right to withhold any portion of the security deposit. The tenant also has 15 days to notify you in writing of a dispute to the claim form.
Damages to the premises for which all or a portion of the security deposit may be withheld or a security deposit claim form imposed must be for such caused by the negligence or intentional acts of the tenant. It cannot be for normal wear and tear or deterioration over a period of time.
Should the tenant fail to pay the rent, you can serve a 3-Day Notice to Quit. Most landlords give their tenants 15 days past the due date before serving the notice. If the tenant pays the full rent within the 3 days, then no further action to evict the tenant is permitted.
Property managers can only file for eviction for nonpayment of rent and should have written permission from the property owner to do so. For any other violation of the lease, you must first send the tenant written notice of the specific provision of the lease that has been violated and allow a reasonable time for the tenant to comply.
Notice to Vacate
If the tenant wishes to vacate the premises, you can include a clause whereby 60 days’ notice before the end of the annual period is needed. The tenant does have the right to terminate the lease and vacate with no further obligation if the landlord has violated a major obligation such as not providing for essential utilities after having been given 7-days’ written notice of the violation by the tenant. Otherwise, if there is no specified notice time to vacate in the written agreement, the tenant has no less than 15 days to give notice to vacate if a month-to-month lease. Similarly, the landlord can give 15-days’ notice from the end of a monthly lease for the tenant to vacate.
To Mitigate or Not
Should the tenant vacate the premises in violation of the lease and you retake possession of the premises or re-enter it on the account of the tenant, you are obligated to mitigate your damages by actively seeking another renter or at least by undertaking good faith efforts, and hold the tenant liable for the difference between the rent as stipulated in the agreement and what you can recover by reletting. Otherwise, you do not have to retake possession and do nothing and hold the tenant liable as the rent becomes due.
Early Termination or Liquidated Damages Addendum
If stated in the Florida residential lease agreement, you can charge the tenant an early termination fee or liquidated damages. The early termination fee may not exceed 2 month’s rent if the tenant is required to give no more than 60 days’ notice to vacate. The provision regarding the early termination fee or liquidated damages has to be in a separate addendum to the lease and state that the tenant agrees to pay liquidated damages or an early termination fee of no more than 2 month’s rent and the landlord agrees not to seek additional rent beyond the date the landlord retakes possession. It must also allow the tenant to not agree to pay liquidated damages or an early termination fee while acknowledging that the landlord may seek damages according to law.
No Self-Help Eviction
If you evict the tenant or attempt to do so such as by shutting off utilities or locking the tenant out without a court order, you are liable to the tenant for all actual and consequential damages or 3 months’ rent, whichever is higher, including attorney’s fees and costs.
A Florida landlord is obligated to comply with all housing and health codes and regulations including maintaining the roof, windows, doors, steps, porches, exterior walls and foundation in good condition. Landlords must make provisions for the extermination of rodents, roaches, ants and wood-destroying organisms and bedbugs. If the tenant needs to vacate the premises for extermination, the rent must be abated accordingly. The tenant is not to vacate the premises for this purpose for no more than 4 days or no more than 7 days if provided in writing.
The landlord is also responsible for providing garbage receptacles and functions for heat, running water and hot water. As landlord, you can indicate in the residential lease agreement that the tenant pay for garbage removal, water, fuel or utilities.
Right of Entry
You must give the tenant reasonable notice of the right to enter the unit to make necessary or agreed repairs—12 hours at a minimum—and at a time convenient for the tenant. If an emergency or if the tenant has been gone for an extended period, the notice can be shortened or waived.
There are implied obligations that a tenant must follow. These include:
- complying with applicable housing, building and health codes and regulations
- keeping premises and responsible areas clean and sanitary
- removing garbage in a clean and sanitary manner
- keeping plumbing fixtures clean and sanitary
- refraining from damaging, destroying, defacing or removing any fixtures or other items belonging to the landlord that is within the unit or premises
- refraining from conduct that unreasonably disturbs other tenants or that constitutes a breach of the peace
Right to Withhold Rent
A tenant does have the right to withhold payment of rent if the landlord’s obligation to provide a habitable premises is violated. This would include a situation where no heat, fuel or hot water is being provided or some other condition that is a hazard to the tenant’s safety or health.
The tenant must first give you 7 days’ written notice of the condition to be remedied. If you fail to repair or remove the hazard or otherwise remedy the situation, the tenant can get court approval to use part of the rent to remedy or pay for the repair or removal of the hazard. Otherwise, you can demand payment of the rent and start eviction proceedings if the total amount is not paid after you give notice.
As a landlord, you have certain obligations to your tenants just as they have certain legal obligations to you. Have an attorney review your Florida residential lease agreement before you lease a unit or residential property so that all laws and local ordinances relevant to rental agreements in your county are followed.