Lease Agreement Attorney
Serving You and The State of Florida
Whether you are a landlord seeking to rent out an investment property or a renter looking for a place to live or run a business, there are many legal issues that may arise when it comes to leasing property. One of the best ways to avoid legal disputes – and to minimize misunderstandings – is by using a well-drafted lease agreement.
A lease is a contract where one party agrees to let another use their property in exchange for money. Typically, written leases cover the details of such an agreement, specifying everything from how the property can be used to how rent is to be paid to what the parties can do if they have a disagreement. Working with a seasoned St. Petersburg lease agreement lawyer can help to ensure that your legal rights are protected with a residential or commercial lease.
At the Lopez Law Group, we represent both landlords and tenants in all types of Florida real estate matters. With significant experience in all aspects of Florida landlord-tenant law, we will work with you to help you protect your interests. Reach out to our law offices today to talk to an experienced attorney about your lease.
What Is a Lease Agreement?
A lease agreement is essentially a contract between two or more parties to rent a property. In Florida, agreements to lease a property can be either written or oral. However, in order to protect against misunderstandings and to ensure that the parties’ rights are spelled out, most rental agreements are in writing.
Florida does not require that any particular provisions be contained in a lease for a rental property. It does prohibit provisions that are unconscionable in residential leases, however. An unconscionable provision is one that is not reasonable or permitted under the law. If a lease is determined to contain an unconscionable provision, then the entire rental agreement may be deemed invalid, or the unconscionable portion may be struck.
For example, consider a lease that charges a $500 fee for having a pet, which is meant to cover costs like carpet cleaning when the tenant vacates the property. If a landlord also reserves the right to deduct $250 from the security deposit for the carpet cleaning fee and does take that fee, then this may be considered unconscionable. A court may strike that provision or find that the entire lease is unenforceable.
For residential leases, Florida specifically prohibits any provisions that:
- Attempts to waive or preclude the rights, remedies, or requirements set forth in this part; or
- Tries to limit or preclude any liability of the landlord to the tenant or of the tenant to the landlord, arising under law.
For example, in Florida, landlords are prohibited from engaging in what is known as “self-help eviction,” or evicting a tenant without going through the legal process. Because the Florida Landlord-Tenant Act provides a specific way to evict a tenant, a lease provision that attempts to waive a tenant’s legal rights would be forbidden.
Otherwise, residential and commercial lease agreements can contain almost any provision (provided that it is lawful). Typically, landlords include the following items in a lease:
- The names of all adult tenants
- The lease term (i.e., month-to-month, yearly, or for a longer term)
- Occupancy limits and guest policy (i.e., only the people named on the lease can live there)
- A pet policy
- Rent, including amount, how it can be paid, when it is due, any grace period, late fees, and what will happen if the rent check bounces
- Security deposit amount and how it may be used and/or returned
- Early lease termination
- Landlord’s right to access the property
- Responsibilities for repairs and maintenance (which are generally the landlord’s responsibility, but the tenant typically has the obligation to maintain the premises in a reasonably clean manner and to not cause intentional damage)
- Restrictions on illegal activity
- General rules, such as quiet hours, the use of common areas, and a prohibition on using the property for business purposes
- Parking policy
- Insurance obligations (i.e., the tenant is required to obtain renter’s insurance)
- Required disclosures
Of course, based on your specific situation and the type of property involved (a commercial space versus a residential unit), there may be other provisions that you can include in the lease contract.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer for a Lease Agreement?
There are typically two parties to a lease: the landlord and the tenant(s). Both sides can benefit from the advice of counsel when it comes to rental agreements.
At its core, a lease is a contract. Violating the lease in some way can result in harsh legal penalties. At the same time, signing this contract without the advice of counsel may lead to the waiver of important legal rights. For these reasons, it is important to consult with a Florida lease agreement attorney before drafting or signing a lease.
For landlords, a lawyer can ensure that the contract is well-written to protect their interests. This includes spelling out provisions for the payment of rent, a pet policy, and more, as well as ensuring that the lease doesn’t contain anything that could land you in legal hot water.
For example, many landlords would prefer that their tenants not have pets, as even the best-behaved dog or cat can cause damage and bother other renters. It is possible to include a “no pets” policy in your lease. However, under federal law, you may be required to allow emotional support animals or a service dog. Your real estate lawyer can advise you on how to draft a lease that covers these situations.
The ultimate goal of a lease agreement for a landlord is to create a contract that ensures that your investment will be protected while avoiding any illegal or prohibited provisions. While there are many online lease templates, working with an attorney can allow you to create a customized lease that addresses your unique situation. This includes making sure that you make all disclosures required by Florida law, such as the presence of lead paint, asbestos, and/or radon gas.
For tenants, a lease attorney can review the document and give you advice about what it means and whether you should sign it. This is particularly important for tenants of commercial units, where there are fewer protections for renters and often greater room to negotiate. For tenants of a residential unit, working with a lawyer can be a good way to understand your legal rights and whether you should sign a particular lease or move on to the next property.
How the Lopez Law Group Can Help
A lease is the core document that governs most aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship. Because Florida law only forbids illegal or unconscionable provisions in a lease, landlords have a fair amount of freedom when it comes to drafting a lease. Our law firm can work with you to help you create a strong lease agreement.
Based in St. Petersburg, the Lopez Law Group represents both landlords and tenants throughout West-Central Florida. We have years of experience handling landlord-tenant matters, including leases. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Florida lease agreement lawyer, give us a call at 727-933-0015 or fill out our online contact form.
Is an Oral Lease Valid in Florida?
Yes. A lease does not have to be written to be enforceable under Florida law. That being said, it is always a good idea to have a written lease in place before agreeing to a rental. This will protect the rights of both the landlord and the tenant and will set up rules for dealing with issues that may arise.
The Lopez Law Group can draft lease agreements on behalf of landlords, and represent them in any disputes over the terms of the lease. We will work with you to create a lease that protects your interests. Contact our law firm today to talk to a Florida lease agreement attorney about your investment properties.
What Happens If My Tenant Wants to Break Their Lease?
Tenants can break their lease and leave the unit early – but there may be consequences for them. The lease agreement should specify what will happen for early termination of the lease. This may include the landlord keeping the security deposit as liquidated damages. Alternatively, a landlord could go after a tenant for the entire remaining lease obligation.
If you are considering renting out a property, it is important to understand how certain contract provisions may affect your rights as a landlord – such as early termination provisions that may limit the amount of money that you can recoup from a tenant. Contact the Lopez Law Group to talk to a Florida lease agreement lawyer about drafting a lease that meets your needs.
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