A lease is an agreement to rent property. It may be written or oral. Most are written, however, because oral agreements can be subject to misunderstandings. A written lease can be in the form of a formal contract or simply a copy of a letter that states the rights and obligations of both tenant and landlord. Florida law requires that most notices to and from a landlord must be in writing, even if the rental agreement is oral. In cases where there is no written lease, the term of your rental payment schedule (monthly, weekly, etc.) determines the length of the agreement.
Once you lease a dwelling your right to possession is much the same as if you owned it. The landlord can, however, enter at reasonable times and with proper notice to inspect, repair, supply agreed services, or show to prospective or actual purchasers, tenants, mortgagees, workmen or contractors.
Landlord’s Obligation to Maintain Premises
If the unit is a single-family home, duplex or mobile home, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing, the landlord/representative must:
Comply with building, housing and health codes;
Where there is no applicable building, housing or health codes, maintain the roof, floors, windows, screens and all other structural components in good repair; and the plumbing in reasonable working condition.
If the unit is other than a single-family house, duplex, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing, the landlord/representative must:
Provide for extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants and wood destroying organisms;
Provide running water and hot water;
Remove garbage from the premises;
Provide a smoke detection device;
Provide locks and keys;
Provide a working heating system; and
Provide clean and safe condition of common areas
Tenant’s Obligation to Maintain Premises
Comply with housing and health codes;
Keep the dwelling clean;
Remove garbage from his/her dwelling unit;
Keep plumbing clean, sanitary and in repair;
Do not destroy, damage or deface the premises;
Occupy the dwelling without disturbing the peace; and
Do not abuse the electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning or other systems furnished by the landlord.
You may be able to withhold the rent if your landlord fails to do what the law or the lease requires. You must however, announce your intention by certified mail at least seven (7) days before the rent is due to allow time to remedy the problem. If the problem is not corrected within the seven (7) days and you withhold the rent the landlord may take you to court to collect it. Under these circumstances, you must pay the rent into the court registry pending the judge’s determination of the case.
You can be evicted for not living up to your end of the lease. Depending on the offense the process for removal varies.
Failure to Meet Lease Obligations
Except for failure to pay rent, a landlord must notify you, in writing, of the shortcomings and give you seven (7) days to correct the situation. If you do not reply within seven (7) days, the landlord can begin the eviction process.
The landlord must serve the tenant with a written notice allowing three(3) days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) for you to pay the rent or vacate the premises. If you do not pay within the three (3) days, the landlord may begin the eviction process. The landlord must file suit in the office of the Clerk of County Court, Civil Division Landlord/Tenant Division, in the county to which the dwelling is situated. The tenant then has five (5) days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) to respond, in writing to the court. If there is no response from the tenant a judgment is entered against the tenant. The Clerk of County court will issue a “Writ of Possession” to be served by the sheriff notifying the tenant that the tenant will be evicted in 24 hours. The tenant must comply with the specific directions given in the summons. Failure to comply with the summons could waive any defense you may have.
Florida law does not allow a landlord to force a tenant out by:
Shutting off the utilities;
Denying the tenant access to the premises by changing locks;
Removing the tenant’s personal property from the dwelling unless it is a lawful eviction; or
Removing outside doors, locks, roof, walls or windows (except for purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement).
If any of these occur, the tenant may sue for actual and consequential damages or three months’ rent, whichever is greater, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
A tenancy without a specific duration may be terminated by either party giving proper written notice (see 82.56(4) F.S.), as follows:
Yearly…………not less than 60 days’ notice
Quarterly…….not less than 30 days’ notice
Monthly………not less than 15 days’ notice
Weekly………not less than 7 days’ notice
If you have a written rental agreement, read it thoroughly before signing.
If there are any changes to the written rental agreement, get it in writing.
Do a walk through before entering or vacating the premises.
Take pictures of any questionable conditions.
If you have a problem, it needs to be in writing and in proper form. See section 83.51, Florida Statutes.