Landlord and Tenant Obligations

Oral and written leases
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 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.

Access to the Premises
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 in order to inspect, repair, supply agreed services, or show the property to prospective or actual purchasers, tenants, mortgagees, workers 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 must:
  • Comply with building, housing and health codes
  • Where there are no applicable building, housing or health codes, keep the roof, floors, windows, screens, and all other structural components in good repair and keep the plumbing in reasonable working condition

If the unit is other than a single-family house or duplex, unless otherwise agreed upon in writing, the landlord must:

  • Provide for extermination of rats, mice, roaches, 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
  • Provide for the 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 repaired
  • Refrain from destroying, damaging or defacing the premises
  • Occupy the dwelling without disturbing the peace
  • Refrain from abusing the electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning or other systems furnished by the landlord.

If the Landlord Does Not Comply
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 days before the rent is due to allow time to remedy the problem. If the problem is not corrected within the seven 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.

 
If the Tenant Does Not Comply
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 the failure to pay rent, a landlord must notify you, in writing, of the shortcomings and give you seven days to correct the situation. If you do not reply within seven days, the landlord can begin the eviction process.
 
Eviction Process 
The landlord must serve the tenant with a written notice allowing three days (excluding weekends and legal holidays) for you to pay the rent or vacate the premises. If you do not pay within the three days, the landlord may begin the eviction process. The landlord must file suit in the office of the Clerk of the Courts in the county where the dwelling is located. The tenant then has five 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 the Court will issue a "Writ of Possession" to be served by the Sheriff notifying the tenant that he or she will be evicted in 24 hours.
 
Prohibited Practices
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
  • 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.

 
Termination of Tenancy
A tenancy without a specific duration may be terminated by either party giving proper written notice (as required by section 83.56(4), Florida Statutes) according to the following time frames:
  • 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

Practical Pointers
  • If you have a written rental agreement, read it thoroughly before signing.
  • If there are any changes to the written rental agreement, get them in writing.
  • Keep receipts and other records.
  • Do a walk-through before entering or vacating the premises.
  • Take pictures of any questionable conditions.
  • If you have a problem, you must put it in writing and in the proper form. See section 83.51, Florida Statutes.
  • For further information, contact Consumer Services at 1-800-435-7352.