When you signed your Florida rental lease, you probably weren’t expecting major life changes at the time. You might not have expected that you’d be moving out, or that you’d be moving in with your significant other. But these things happen, and when they do, you’ll have to make a decision on whether you’ll break your lease or not.

Depending on your reasons for breaking your lease, your landlord may be sympathetic and not penalize you. If you’re not careful though, it could have significant financial and legal ramifications. Here’s what you need to know about breaking a lease in Florida.

What is a lease?

Before you break your lease, it’s important to understand what a lease is. Simply put, a lease is a legally binding document that obligates you and your landlord for a set period of time, usually one year.

Both you and your landlord need to adhere to the terms of the lease. Any violations thereof may lead to serious consequences.

When Breaking a Lease in Florida is Legally Justified

In general, a tenant who breaks a lease needs to continue paying the rent until the lease expires. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Below are the instances in which the Florida tenant has the right break your lease without financial and legal repercussions.

– Your lease agreement allows it.

Your lease agreement may permit you to break a lease without having to pay the remaining rent owed. As such, it’s important to read your lease document carefully to determine whether such clauses are present.

– Your landlord harasses you or violates your right to privacy.

In Florida, your landlord must give you a 12-hour notice before entering your rental unit. The courts will rule that you have been “constructively evicted” if your landlord does any of the following:

  • Changes your door locks
  • Turns off your utilities
  • Removes your windows or doors
  • Repeatedly violates your rights to privacy

– The rental unit is unsafe or violates Florida’s housing codes.

Also, a court can rule that you’ve been “constructively evicted” if your landlord doesn’t comply with local and state housing codes. Under Florida rental laws, you have no further responsibility for the rent as the landlord has, for all intents and purposes, “evicted” you.

– You are starting active military duty.

Under Florida law, you can break a lease if you enter active military service. But in order to qualify, you must belong to:

  • The commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • The Armed Forces
  • The activated National Guard
  • The commissioned corps of the National Public Health Guard

Before moving out, you must give your landlord a notice explaining when and why you’re moving out. Once you do this, your tenancy will remain active for 30 days after the next due date of your rent.

– You are suffering from an injury or illness.

You may be able to break a lease due to health issues such as serious illness or injury.

Florida Landlord’s Options in Unjustified Breaking of the Lease

In other states, a landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent vacant units as a result of renters breaking their lease. In Florida, however, the rental laws do not exact the same requirements from landlords.

Basically, landlords in Florida have three options when an unjustified breaking of a lease happens. The landlord can:

  • Choose to do nothing. This means the renter will have to fulfill their remaining financial obligations until the lease ends.
  • Cover the financial damages by liquidating the tenants’ assets.
  • Re-rent the property.

Florida Renter’s Rights in Unjustified Breaking of a Lease

In Florida, you have limited options when your break a lease without any legal justification. Nonetheless, your lease agreement should protect your rights as a tenant. Even if your reasons for breaking your lease are unjustified, your landlord cannot change the lease terms at will.

How to Minimize Your Financial Responsibility When You Break a Lease in Florida

– Talk to your landlord.

It’s important that you stay on good terms with your landlord. Not only will this ease the moving out process, but it’ll also ensure that you get a good reference.

For example, you can inform the landlord that you’re moving out as soon as you decide to do so. That way, your landlord has ample time to look for new tenants.

– Read your rental agreement carefully.

Check your agreement for clauses that permit breaking a lease and the penalties involved. Look for words like “re-let,” “sublet” and “early release.” If the lease agreement specifies that you have to find a replacement tenant, or you have to give notice one or two months in advance, do so.

– Find a replacement tenant.

A replacement renter can help lessen the rent amount owed for the remaining months. There are two ways by which this can be accomplished.

  • Re-renting. Re-renting is when you find a new tenant for the rental property. The replacement renter needs to pay their own security deposit and sign a brand-new lease.
  • Subletting. Subletting involves finding someone who’s willing to take over your current lease. Unlike in re-renting, the lease will still be under your name. It’s also worth noting that you won’t get your deposit back until the original lease term ends.

– Consider termination offers.

Most lease agreements contain clauses on termination offers. You should consider this option only when you need to leave immediately, or you’re unable to get a replacement tenant. Often, breaking a lease precludes you from getting your deposit back, and may require you to pay two or three months’ rent.

– Get everything in writing.

Document as much as you can in writing. Have your conversations through email instead of the phone, if possible. This will make it easier to provide evidence in case you decide to go to court.

Breaking a lease in Florida can have serious legal and financial consequences — unless you know the workarounds. Familiarize yourself with those workarounds, and get help from a qualified lawyer to help you bolster your case.