Florida Lease Agreement Basics

 Having represented both Florida Landlords and Tenants, we’ve seen a wide variety of Florida lease agreements. Some require reading glasses given the amount of small print, whereas others have occupied little more than two pages with large font. Many Florida condominium unit owners have transformed themselves into landlords as more and more are renting out their units. While the courts have made it easier for laypersons to navigate through this area of the law, many finer points are overlooked that could have severe consequences for either landlords or tenants. Below is a discussion on the basics of a lease agreement.

 Florida Rental Agreements

There are different opinions as to whether or not a landlord should use a Florida lease agreement. Some argue that they would rather not have a lease so they can get rid of a tenant at any time. The disadvantage is that the tenant can also leave at any time. Beyond this, the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant are more carefully acknowledged with a written agreement. If the landlord does not want to tie up the property for a long period of time, he or she can use a rental agreement, which states that the tenancy is month to month, but which also includes rules and regulations which protect the landlord.

 Required Clauses

The minimum elements which a lease must contain to be valid are:

  • name of lessor (landlord) or agent;
  • name of lessee (tenant);
  • description of the premises;
  • rental rate;
  • starting date; and,
  • granting clause (Lessor hereby leases to Lessee…);

 Management Disclosure

At or before the beginning of a residential rental the landlord must disclose to the tenant either his/her name and address or the name and address of his/her agent. The agent, if any, retains authority until the tenant is given written notice of a change of agent. In most cases the landlord’s name and address in the lease or rental agreement is sufficient and no other notice need be given. If an agent collects rent after he is discharged and absconds with the money, it is the landlord’s loss if he did not inform the tenants in writing that the agent no longer had authority to collect rents.

 Termination Clause

The Florida statutes were amended in 2003 which now allow a landlord to require a tenant to give notice to a landlord before vacating the premises at the end of a lease term, but the notice cannot be required more than 60 days in advance. The lease can require the tenant to pay liquidated damages if the tenant fails to give such notice.

Radon Clause

Whenever a building is lease or sold in Florida, at least one document must contain the following clause:

 RADON GAS: Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it has accumulated in a building in sufficient quantities, may present health risks to persons who are exposed to it over time. Levels of radon that exceed federal and state guidelines have been found in buildings in Florida. Additional information regarding radon and radon testing may be obtained from your county public health unit.

 Placing this clause in a lease can help protect the landlord against suits from tenants who may claim injury from the radon gas. Landlords who break the law and omit this clause risk liability.

 Lead Paint Disclosure

Notice must be given to tenants of rental housing built before 1978 that there may be lead-based paint present and that it could pose a health hazard to children.

 Suggested Clauses

The following clauses are not required by any law, but are highly recommended to avoid potential problems during the tenancy:

  •  security and/or damage deposit
  • last month’s rent
  • use clause (limiting use of the property)
  • maintenance clause (spelling out who is responsible for which maintenance)
  • limitation on landlord’s liability
  • limitation on assignment of the lease by tenant
  • clause granting attorney’s fees for enforcement of the lease
  • clause putting duty on tenant for own insurance
  • late fee and fee for bounced checks
  • limitation on number of persons living in the unit
  • in a condominium, a clause stating that the tenant must comply with all rules and regulations of the condominium
  • requirement that if locks are changed landlord is given a key (forbidding tenants to change locks may subject the landlord to liability for a break-in)
  • limitation on pets
  • limitation on where cars may be parked (e.g., not on the lawn)
  • limitation on storage of boats, etc., on the property
  • in a single-family home or duplex a landlord should put most of the duties for repair under Florida Statutes, Section 83.51 on the tenant
  • in commercial leases there should be clauses regarding the fixtures, insurance, signs, renewal, eminent domain and other factors related to the business use of the premises
  • to protect the landlord if it is necessary to dispose of property left behind by a tenant a clause cited in Florida Statutes, section 83.67(3) should be in the lease.

 Option to Renew

Both Florida residential and non-residential leases may contain clauses that grant the tenant an option to extend the lease for another term or several terms. Often these options provide for an increase in rent during the renewal periods.

There are some general rules regarding renewal options to keep in mind:

  • An option to renew a lease is valid and enforceable, even if not all of the terms are spelled out.
  • Some terms may be left open for future negotiation or arbitration, but where no terms are stated the court can assume that the terms will be at the same terms as the original lease.
  • Leases which can be renewed indefinitely are not favored by the court and where doubt exists as to the terms they may be limited to one renewal term.
  • If a lease contains a notification clause for vacating, a renewal option may go into effect if a tenant vacates without the required notification.

 In today’s world much is often found on the internet. Many legal documents, including form leases can also be found. One must be careful, however, that such forms conform to Florida law, as each state has its own laws, including landlord/tenant law. If you have questions about the terms of your Florida lease agreement, you should speak to an attorney experienced in Florida’s landlord and tenant law.

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