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Help! Can I get out of my lease?

Getting out of your lease in Florida as a renter

We all know that things change for people whether they are renters, landlords, or property owners. Family situations change, jobs change, and people oftentimes find themselves in circumstances that require them to make an unavoidable move. A question that can come up if you're a renter facing a change is, "Can I get out of my lease?" Let's take a look a how this can be done.

My first suggestion for you if you're contemplating trying to get out of your lease early is to review the lease document you signed when you first took the rental. Here in Florida, my realtor has a page in the agreement labeled as "Early Termination Fee / Liquidated Damages Addendum." There are two options listed:

  • I agree, as provided in the rental agreement, to pay $___ (an amount that does not exceed two months' rent) as liquidated damages or an early termination fee if I elect to terminate the rental agreement and the landlord waives the right to seek additional rent beyond the month in which the landlord retakes possession.

  • I do not agree to liquidated damages or an early termination fee, and I acknowledge that the landlord may seek damages as provided by law.

In our lease document, that tenant selects the option they prefer and both the landlord and the tenant sign the document which is included as part of the lease. Remember that when you sign a lease, you are agreeing to rent the property for the term of the lease (one year most likely). There are several reasons where breaking a lease in Florida is considered as being justified - active military duty, rental property violations (property is considered as being unlivable according to the law), or harassment by the landlord (again, there needs to be a legal basis for this). If the reason for breaking the lease is considered as being unjustified, that's where the early termination fee and liquidated damages can come into play.

Breaking a lease in Florida as a tenant or renter

I'm not a lawyer, so I am just providing information for you to consider. My suggestion would be to consult with an attorney if you find yourself in a situation of needing to break a lease before the ending date. Here are a few good resources to review: did an article, "Tenant's Right to Break a Rental Lease in Florida," that explains your options. They explain that a tenant is bound to pay the rent for the full lease term, whether or not they continue to live in the rental. They discuss the justified reasons for breaking a lease and talk about the landlord's duty to find a new tenant, but this is not the case in Florida! Landlords can try to find a new tenant, but they are not obligated to do so. There is some good information in this article to help you understand what you can do to try to save yourself money if you find yourself needing to break a lease early without a justified reason.

Another document to examine is the Florida Statute for Landlords and Tenants. Part II deals with residential tenancies. Take a look the sections beginning at 83.56 as they deal with the termination of a rental agreement. Some of the sections after that also deal with the issue, like 83.595 which mentions the choice of remedies upon breach or an early termination by the tenant. Keep reading - other sections deal with finances when an early termination occurs.

If you do a Google search for "how do I get out of a lease early in Florida," you'll see that many people suggest giving the landlord as much notice as possible. Others mention possibly helping the landlord find a new tenant that would be acceptable (possibly someone you know who might want to take over your lease if your landlord would permit it). Open up a dialog with the landlord or property manager, explain your situation, and see if you can work something out that will work for both of you.

Looking for something different regarding leases? Consider checking these articles out:

Our blog focuses on issues of interest to renters and landlords alike (primarily on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday). On Monday and Wednesday, we discuss things to do here in Lake County, Florida. Stop by again or subscribe.

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