A lease is legally binding for the entire term of the agreement as per Florida landlord-tenant laws. But what does this mean for your Florida tenant? It means that they must continue paying for the entire term, regardless of whether they live there or not.

But there are exceptions to this rule. If a tenant has a legally justified reason, they can leave without further responsibility regarding the lease.

In this guide, we at Keyrenter South Florida walk you through everything you need to learn in this regard.

When Can a Tenant Legally Break Their Lease in Florida?

The following are some scenarios in which a tenant can legally break their lease in Florida without penalty:

military duty

The Tenant is Entering Active Military Duty

Is your tenant beginning an active military duty that requires them to relocate?

If so, they are protected against penalties by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The protection by the action begins from the day they enter active duty and ends anywhere between 30 and 90 days after being discharged.

This act requires that a tenant do the following prior to moving out due to military duty:

  • Prove that they signed the lease agreement prior to starting active military duty.
  • Prove that they have an intention to remain on active duty for at least the next ninety days.
  • In addition, the Act also requires that the tenant serve their landlord with a copy of the deployment letters.

But even after meeting all these requirements, the lease doesn’t end immediately. It takes another 30 days after the next rent cycle begins for it to terminate. Suppose, for instance, your tenant serves you the notice on the 21st of April. In such a case, the earliest the lease can end would be on the 1st of June (assuming rent is due on the 1st of every month).

The Unit is Not Habitable

Florida, just like other states, requires landlords to abide by certain minimum health and safety standards. So, if you are not able to meet those standards within a reasonable period of time after being notified by your tenant, the tenant is considered “constructively evicted.”

At that point, the tenant would not be required to continue honoring their obligations under the lease agreement.

So, for your rental property to be deemed habitable, Fla. Stat. 83.51 requires that you provide the following at the very least.

  • Working sanitation facilities.
  • Working electrical, plumbing, and HVAC equipment.
  • Provide hot and cold running water.
  • Operable doors and windows that are in a good state of repair.

As a landlord in Florida, you have 20 days to make any repairs after being notified by your tenant. If you don’t, your tenant can simply choose to leave without legal repercussions.

Alternatively, your tenant may choose to withhold rent, repair the issue and deduct the appropriate costs from future rent payments, or even report you to public officials for violating a local housing code.

residential lease agreement

An Early Termination Clause

Some leases contain specific terms that would allow a tenant to break their lease early. In most cases, early termination clauses require tenants to meet two conditions first before moving out.

That is a small penalty fee, as well as an advance notice along with dealing with any security deposit deductions. If your tenant meets such conditions and you have an early termination clause in your lease, they can opt to terminate their lease.

Landlord Harassment

Certain actions taken by a landlord can be serious enough to be deemed as harassment. Some common examples are as follows:

  • Entering your tenant’s unit repeatedly without notice. In Florida, landlords are required to provide their tenants with advance notice of at least 12 hours prior to entry. Turning off utilities that were previously available to the tenant.
  • Locking the tenant out of the unit by changing the unit’s locks.
  • Removing windows and doors.
  • Removing the tenant’s belongings from the unit.
  • When a Tenant in Florida doesn’t have enough Justification to Break their Lease
  • Breaching the Fair Housing Act

landlord opening door

The following reasons generally don’t offer enough justification to release a tenant from their lease obligations.

  • Relocating to the new house they bought
  • Relocating for a new school or job
  • Moving to get closer to family and friends
  • Upsizing or downsizing
  • Moving in with a lover
  • Moving out due to divorce or separation

Some states require their landlords to make reasonable efforts to re-rent their unit after a tenant leaves. But this isn’t the case in the state of Florida.

So, technically speaking, you can leave a unit empty for the rest of the term and then hold your tenant responsible for all the remaining rent under the lease.

Bottom Line

Hopefully, this will have answered your questions on when a tenant can and cannot terminate their lease. But if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Keyrenter South Florida.

We’re an experienced and professional property management company in South Florida and helping property owners maximize their rental income is what we do best!

Disclaimer: This content isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Also, laws change, and the content herein may not be updated at the time you read it. For expert help, KeyRenter South Florida can help.