A Guide to Breaking a Lease In Florida

You can legally break a lease in Florida under certain circumstances, but understanding the laws governing early lease termination can help you avoid fees.
Written by Katherine Duffy
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Breaking your lease early in
is not a state-protected right, except in a few different situations, such as beginning active military service or living in unsafe conditions. But, a better understanding of how breaking a lease works in Florida may help you get out of a lease early without facing fines or legal ramifications. 
When you sign a rental agreement in any state, you’re agreeing to pay rent for access to the property for a specified period. Rental agreements act as legally binding commitments, but things out of our control can impact our ability to stick to these commitments. Maybe you’ve lost your income, need to move for a new career opportunity, or are making the big move-in with your partner. Regardless of your situation, it can be tough to break a lease early without a legal reason to do so. 
Thankfully, there are ways to break your lease early in Florida without facing fees or legal ramifications. Here to walk you through your options is
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In nearly all cases, Florida state law doesn’t protect a tenant’s right to break their lease early without suffering financial consequences. However, there are three situations where the right to break your lease early is protected: 
  • You’re about to begin active military duty: If you begin active military duty with any of the uniformed services, including the Armed Forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard, you can break your lease early without consequences in Florida. You’ll have to provide your landlord with written notice to terminate the lease, but you won’t be obliged to pay the remaining rent. 
  • Your rental unit isn’t safe: If your landlord provides you with a unit that isn't habitable under state and local housing codes, Florida law concludes that your landlord has “constructively evicted” you. This means that by supplying unlivable housing, your landlord has essentially evicted you, and you’re no longer responsible for paying rent. 
  • Your landlord harrasses you or violates your privacy: If your landlord enters your unit without providing proper notice, changes locks, doors, or windows without notifying you, or does other disruptive things that violate your privacy or make you feel harassed, you’re justified in breaking your lease without being obligated to pay rent. 
In Florida, if your situation doesn’t fit one of the three descriptions listed above, you’re legally obligated to pay rent until your lease term is up—whether you’re occupying the unit or not. 

What are the penalties for breaking a lease in Florida? 

If you can show that your living situation fits one of the exceptions for breaking a lease in Florida, you should be able to terminate your lease early without paying rent for the remainder of the rental term. But outside of these exceptions, you’ll be facing potential penalty fees, continued rent responsibility, or even a lawsuit from your landlord in small claims court
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There’s no specified fine for breaking a lease early in Florida, but here are some of the actions your landlord could take if you do so without legal justification: 
  • Your landlord may withhold your security deposit.
  • You may have to pay the remainder of the rent if your landlord wins their small claims lawsuit.
  • You may be subjected to wage garnishment, which means that part of your job’s pay will be deducted to cover your liability to your landlord.
  • You could be chased by a debt collection agency if you refuse to pay.
There are clearly many different methods your landlord might use to cover their losses if you choose to break your lease early, which could result in thousands of dollars of debt. On top of this financial penalty, your credit score could be negatively impacted, and you won’t be able to use your landlord as a reference to find new housing. 
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid penalties for breaking your lease and maintaining a good relationship with your landlord. 

How to break a lease without a penalty in Florida 

In many U.S. states, landlords have a legal responsibility to make reasonable efforts to find a new tenant instead of charging you for the rest of the lease period for an apartment you’re no longer occupying.
Unfortunately, this law doesn’t apply in Florida, so landlords are under no obligation to mitigate their losses if you decide to break your lease early. That doesn’t mean that you’re totally out of options, though! 
Rather than springing your lease-break news upon your landlord just a few days before you plan to break the lease, here’s what you can do to convince your landlord to allow you to break your lease without paying any fees: 
  • Search for a replacement tenant beforehand. If you find a reliable replacement with the financial means to take over your lease as soon as you move out, your landlord will be much less likely to chase you for fees instead. 
  • Let your landlord know well in advance. If you can, set up a time to speak to your landlord about your situation months before you need to break your lease. This would also be a great time to present your replacement or let them know you’re actively searching for a tenant replacement. This way, your landlord won’t feel blindsided and might be more sympathetic towards your situation. 
  • Check your lease. Knowing the terms of your lease could save you major headaches. Some landlords will outline their provisions and fees for early termination, giving you a good starting point for planning your move. 
  • Negotiate with your landlord. Remember, your landlord doesn’t have to charge you fees for breaking your lease early if you come to a mutual agreement. Talk about the benefits of you breaking your lease early, like raising the rent or setting themselves up for a more competitive leasing schedule. Chances are, if you have a good relationship with your landlord, they’ll hear you out. 
Regardless of the approach you choose, avoid breaking your lease last minute. Your landlord will be more amenable to your situation if they feel like they’re informed and prepared for your departure. 

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Breaking your lease early without repercussions can be tough to navigate in Florida, but that doesn’t mean that finding an affordable
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Despite its serious impacts on public health and individual finances, the COVID-19 pandemic is not a legally valid reason to break a lease in Florida. If you need to break your lease because of the pandemic's devastating effects, speak to your landlord as soon as possible to come up with a solution.
Not necessarily. As long as you pay all of the associated costs your landlord charges, including termination fees and any ongoing rent, your credit score shouldn’t see a drop. But if your landlord decides to use a debt collection service, your credit score could drop several points.
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