Overview of Florida Landlord-Tenant Laws

Overview of Florida Landlord-Tenant Laws

If you are considering purchasing an investment property in Florida, congratulations. Owning a rental property can be a great way to build financial stability. This is particularly true in a state like Florida, where there are tons of tourists and lots of people looking to live in the state.

However, before you get started on your journey as a landlord, it is important to understand the laws that apply to landlords and tenants. Florida’s Landlord-Tenant law provides certain protections for tenants, such as a requirement to go through a legal process for eviction. There are also federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination and retaliation against tenants.

At the Lopez Law Group, we provide comprehensive legal services to landlords in the greater St. Petersburg area. We can advise you on everything from legal ways to screen prospective renters to drafting a lease to dealing with problems like unpaid rent. Reach out today to schedule a consultation with a St. Petersburg landlord-tenant lawyer.

Florida’s Landlord-Tenant Law: The Basics

Florida’s landlord-tenant law covers both residential and commercial properties. For purposes of this post, we will focus on residential properties. Generally, tenants in a residential lease have greater protections than commercial tenants.

Landlords’ Rights and Duties in Florida

In Florida, landlords have the right to receive rent in exchange for the use of their property. They also have the right to have their property returned to them undamaged at the end of the rental period, other than ordinary wear and tear.

In exchange for rental payments, landlords must provide a clean, safe home that meets Florida housing codes. Landlords are also required to make reasonable repairs when necessary. You must also allow the tenant to peacefully possess the rental unit. While a landlord can enter a property to perform repairs, they must provide reasonable notice (12 or more hours, except in the case of an emergency) to do so.

Typically, landlords require tenants to sign a rental agreement or lease. This lease does not have to be written, although it is generally a good idea to spell out the terms of the rental agreement in writing. A lease agreement can cover items such as:

  • Payment of rent
  • Security deposit
  • Occupancy limits
  • Payment of utilities
  • Pets
  • Maintenance and repairs

A rental agreement can contain almost any type of issue, provided that it is legal. For example, a lease agreement can forbid pets – but not service animals or emotional support animals. Prohibiting these animals in a lease would be an example of an illegal lease provision. 

If a tenant breaks a lease agreement in some way – such as by not paying rent – then a landlord may evict them after providing the proper notice. Landlords must go through the legal process for eviction. This requires providing proper notice, an opportunity to cure (for nonpayment of rent), and then seeking a court order to evict the tenant.

The amount of notice that must be given will depend on the reason for the eviction:

  • Nonpayment of rent: 3-day notice to pay rent or quit
  • Lease violation: 7-day notice to cure (fix the issue)
  • Serious lease violations: 7-day unconditional quit notice (no opportunity to cure). This is reserved for more significant violations of the lease agreement, such as intentional property destruction, the creation of unreasonable disturbances, or a repeat of the same lease violation within 12 months.

If a tenant does not cure the issue and refuses to leave the rental unit, then the landlord is required to file an eviction complaint in local court. The tenant may present defenses, or may not show up to the hearing at all. After a court issues an eviction order, a local sheriff can remove the tenant from the dwelling unit. Under Florida law, engaging in self-help eviction (such as changing the locks) is illegal.

If a tenant leaves personal property behind, then the landlord must provide written notice to them about the property, where it can be claimed, and that storage fees may be charged. The landlord should provide a deadline of at least 10 – 15 days by which the property must be claimed.

At the end of a lease, a landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit to them, less any deductions for property damage and/or unpaid rent. Security deposits must be returned within one month of the tenant leaving the property. If a landlord fails to do so, then a tenant may sue them in small claims court for the return of their security deposit.

In addition to Florida’s landlord-tenant laws, landlords in Florida must comply with all other federal, state, and local laws. This includes laws that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status, disability, and military status. Housing discrimination is prohibited under both the federal Fair Housing Act as well as the Florida Civil Rights law.

For example, when screening for tenants, landlords cannot ask questions that are designed to weed out prospective renters from a foreign country or who are LGBTQ+. If you engage in discriminatory behavior, you could be prosecuted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and/or the Florida Commission on Human Rights.

Landlords are also prohibited from retaliating against tenants. This can take many forms, such as a landlord evicting a tenant for complaining about housing code violations or unsafe living conditions.  Both discrimination and retaliation complaints can result in substantial fines, fees, and other financial penalties.

Finally, landlords are required to make certain disclosures to tenants. This includes information about anyone authorized to act on the landlord’s behalf (such as a property management company) and where their security deposit is being held. Under federal law, landlords must also disclose certain health hazards, such as the presence of lead-based paint. 

Tenants’ Rights and Duties in Florida

Tenants in Florida also have rights and duties under the law. Generally, tenants have the right to peaceful possession of the rental property without interference. A landlord can enter the unit to inspect or make necessary repairs, but only with reasonable notice (except for emergencies).

Tenants also have a right to a habitable dwelling. It must have working hot water, heating, and plumbing, and be structurally sound. The rental unit must also have working and locking doors and windows, smoke detectors, and be free of pests. Landlords must also comply with all local health, building, and safety codes.

If a landlord fails to provide a clean, safe home – or to make necessary repairs – then a tenant may withhold rent. Tenants can generally only withhold rent for important repairs, such as a broken heater in the winter, and if the landlord refuses to make repairs. Tenants must give the landlord 7 days’ written notice of the problem before they can withhold rent.

In exchange for the use of the rental property, tenants have an obligation to pay rent. If a tenant doesn’t pay rent on time, then the landlord must provide them with written notice of the violation and give them an opportunity to correct it.  For any eviction – even for serious violations of the lease agreement – the landlord must go through the formal eviction process.

There are no limits on the amount of security deposit that a landlord can request in Florida. However, if a landlord requires a security deposit, then they must preserve it throughout the tenancy. The full amount of the deposit must be returned within 15 days after the tenant leaves the rental unit. A landlord must otherwise provide written notice of why some or all of the security deposit won’t be returned within 30 days of the tenant vacating the property. A tenant must provide an address where they can be reached when moving out so that the landlord can return the security deposit to them. 

Tenants also have the right to move out of a rental property. Depending on the lease terms, there may be a financial penalty for moving out before the lease term has expired. However, if there is no written lease, then a tenant can move out for any reason by providing proper notice. A tenant can also terminate a lease if a landlord has broken the lease in a significant way, with a 7-day written notice.

In Florida, tenants have the obligation to not only make rent payments on time but to maintain the dwelling without damage and to keep it clean. Tenants must also comply with federal, state, and local laws. A violation of the law – such as by using drugs in the rental unit – could be the basis for an eviction.

Finally, if the rental property is foreclosed upon, then tenants may have the right to stay in the property throughout their lease term. However, if a tenant signed a lease after the house was foreclosed on or if the purchaser will use the unit as their primary residence, then the new owner may provide a 90-day notice to vacate.

Considering Becoming a Landlord in Florida? We Can Help.

In Florida, landlords must not only comply with state landlord-tenant laws, but a variety of federal, state, and local laws. Understanding your rights and obligations under these laws and regulations can be challenging for even savvy landlords. Our law firm can work with you to help you understand the law, draft a strong lease agreement, and protect your interests throughout the process.

The Lopez Law Group provides expert legal advice to landlords throughout the greater St. Petersburg region. We understand how these laws apply to residential and commercial rental agreements, and provide realistic legal advice that is designed to maximize your profits while reducing the risk of legal action. Our legal team can represent you through each phase of the process, from the initial purchase of a rental property to drafting a lease, to handling formal legal evictions.

To learn more about our legal services for landlords, reach out to the Lopez Law Group today to schedule a consultation with a St. Petersburg landlord-tenant attorney. You can call us at 727-933-0015 or fill out our online contact form at any time.