Fifty million people rent their homes in America. And every one of them has rights. In some parts of the country, renters have the right to hot water during the winter or predictable rent rates. Every American has the right to a safe, habitable rental home.

What are your rights and protections as a renter in Florida? Read on to find out and learn more about your tenant rights with the links at the bottom of this article.

The information on this page is provided as a free resource for renters in Florida. It is not legal advice.

If you need legal advice or additional legal help, contact Florida’s court system, which maintains a list of state and local legal aid organizations.

You can find them here: https://www.flcourts.gov/Resources-Services/Office-of-Family-Courts/Self-Help-Information/Legal-Aid.

Does Florida have “rent control?”

Rent is not regulated in Florida. This means that the only limit on how much a landlord in Florida can charge for rent is what people are willing to pay. This is sometimes called a “market rate.”

What does it mean to have a “safe, habitable” place to live in Florida?

Florida requires landlords to comply with the requirements of building, housing, and health codes. Where there are no applicable codes, landlords must maintain the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads. Landlords must maintain plumbing in reasonable working condition. The landlord must ensure that screens are installed in a reasonable condition.

Landlords of a dwelling unit other than a single-family home or duplex must make reasonable provisions for:

  1. The extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs.
  2. The clean and safe condition of common areas.
  3. Garbage removal and outside receptacles.
  4. Functioning facilities for heat during winter, running water, and hot water.  Landlords are not required to provide air conditioning in Florida.

Crime Prevention

Florida requires landlords to protect tenants from “reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct.” Whether a landlord has taken adequate precautions to prevent crime in this context is a complicated and fact-specific inquiry, so tenants should consult an attorney if they believe their landlord has not provided adequate security measures.

In the event a tenant becomes the victim of a crime that could have been prevented had their landlord taken adequate security measures, their landlord could be liable for the injuries and/or damages the tenant suffered.

Windows

A landlord’s precise duty is determined by state and local building codes. If no code applies, landlords must maintain doors, windows, and exterior walls “in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads.”

Doors

Florida landlords must maintain working locks on doors.

Heat and Air Conditioning

Florida landlords must provide heat during the “winter.” Which months are considered “winter” is not defined in Florida law.

Hot Water

Landlords in Florida must provide hot water.

Does my landlord have to provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in Florida?

Carbon monoxide detectors are required in all new buildings (where the building permit was issued on or after July 1, 2008) that and have a fossil-fuel-burning heater or appliance, a fireplace, or an attached garage.

Carbon monoxide detectors must be installed within 10 feet of each room used for sleeping purposes.

Smoke detectors must be 10-year tamper-proof batteries. Landlords may include a clause in the tenant rental agreement that shifts the burden of maintaining these detectors to the tenant.  Carbon monoxide detectors are required in every separate building or addition to a building (Florida Statute 553.885).

How long does my landlord have to fix problems at my apartment in Florida?

Landlords must make repairs that are necessary to bring the dwelling in line with the habitability requirement within seven days after receiving notice from the tenant of the need to make a repair.

Pest issues are covered under Habitability Requirements, so the same 7-day timeline for normal repairs applies.

What can I do if my landlord can’t or won’t fix problems at my apartment in Florida?

Rent Abatement

A tenant MAY be able to withhold rent if their landlord fails to do what the law or rental agreement requires. A tenant must notify the landlord, in writing, by hand delivery or mail, of the issue that needs repair. The written notice must also indicate the tenant’s intention to withhold rent due to the unrepaired issue.

If a landlord fails to make a repair that is required under the lease agreement and their failure to do so renders the dwelling “untenantable,” the tenant may notify the landlord of the need for repair and then either terminate the lease or withhold the next month’s rent if the landlord fails to make the repair within 20 days.

Withheld rent must be paid to the landlord if they subsequently fix the issue unless the tenant decides to terminate the lease. 83.201

Vacate

If a Florida Landlord fails to maintain the property as required by law or the rental agreement “within 7 days after delivery of written notice by the tenant specifying the noncompliance and indicating the intention of the tenant to terminate the rental agreement by reason thereof, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.”

Sue

Tenants may sue a landlord over a failure to repair, but they first must establish either that the landlord was negligent in their failure to repair and the negligence caused the tenant harm or that the lease required the landlord to make the repair, and their failure to do so constitutes a breach of contract.

Tenants should consult an attorney before proceeding with a lawsuit.

What are the rules for security deposits in Florida, and how do I get my security deposit refunded?

Landlords can retain a security deposit to cover

  • (1) unpaid rent,
  • (2) unpaid fees due pursuant to a rental agreement,
  • (3) any damage caused by the tenant’s violation of the lease, or
  • (4) any damage the tenant caused to the dwelling in excess of normal wear and tear.

Landlords in Florida must return deposits within 15 days of a tenant moving out or 30 days if the landlord intends to retain a portion of the deposit.

If the landlord is keeping part or all of a deposit, they must include an explanation and give the tenant 15 days to object by sending a letter to the landlord. If the tenant doesn’t object, the landlord must return the remaining portion of the deposit within 30 days of sending the initial notice.

What kind of notice does my landlord need to give me in Florida?

Eviction

Landlords must provide tenants with written notice at least 3 days before proceeding with an eviction. The tenant may avoid eviction by paying within that time.

Renewal

Landlords must give advance notice to the tenant if the landlord decides not to renew an existing lease agreement. The amount of required notice depends on the length of the lease:

  • For a yearly lease, Notice must be given at least 60 days prior to the end of the lease;
  • For quarter-to-quarter tenancies: Notice must be given at least 30 days prior to the end of any quarterly period;
  • For month-to-month tenancies: Notice must be given at least 15 days prior to the end of any monthly period;
  • For week-to-week tenancies: Notice must be given at least 7 days prior to the end of any weekly period.

Entry

Florida landlords must give 24 hours’ notice before entering a dwelling for the purpose of repair.

Other Required Notices in Florida

Florida landlords must give the tenant notice of the landlord’s address when the tenant first moves in.

Landlords that rent out 5 or more dwellings and collect security deposits or advance rent payments must provide written notice to their tenants describing where the landlord will retain the security deposit or advance rent payment and whether the tenant is entitled to interest on the deposit.

This notice must be given no later than 30 days after the landlord receives the security deposit or advance rent, and it may be provided in the lease itself.

Can I end my lease early in Florida?

If something comes up in your life, you may find that you need to end your lease early. This can be stressful and very expensive, with most leases including steep penalties and fines for early termination. Here are some potential options.

Military

If you’re active military, you may be able to terminate your lease early under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The SCRA provides certain protections for active-duty military members, including the right to terminate a lease early if you receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment.

To terminate your lease early under the SCRA, you must provide your landlord with written notice and a copy of your orders. The notice must be provided at least 30 days before the date on which you intend to terminate the lease.

Subleasing

We could not find details about subleasing in Florida’s landlord/tenant laws.  A tenant’s ability to do so will likely be determined by the terms of their lease.

Seniors and Those with a Disability

We cannot find laws in Florida that would allow senior citizens or individuals living with disabilities to break their leases early.

Survivors of Domestic Violence

Florida does not currently allow survivors of domestic violence to terminate their lease early.

What should I know about eviction in Florida?

The tenant has a defense to eviction if the landlord has failed to maintain the premises after being notified of the need to do so by the tenant.

The tenant has a defense to eviction if the landlord fails to deliver the required 3-day notice before starting the eviction proceedings or if the notice is substantively defective.   The landlord waives their right to proceed with eviction if they accept payment of the overdue rent amount at any point.

Accepting rent is entirely left to the landlord’s discretion if it is paid at any point after 3-days following delivery of the eviction notice.  The tenant may avoid eviction by paying the full rent amount within the 3-day grace period that begins upon delivery of the eviction notice.

Where can I get help if I’m being evicted in Florida?

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/housing/housing-insecurity/help-for-renters/get-help-paying-rent-and-bills/

What can I do if my landlord harasses me or discriminates against me in Florida?

Florida’s Fair Housing Act mirrors the federal FHA almost exactly and does not include any additional protected classes.

Landlords in Florida cannot abuse their right of access nor use it to harass a tenant. The statutes do not clearly state what the tenant’s remedy for this type of harassment would be, but the tenant could possibly sue that landlord in tort if nothing else.

SixFifty can help!

Now that you know your rights as a renter in Florida, what can you do? Take action! SixFifty built HelloLandlord with the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University as a free resource for people who can’t afford legal help. You can use HelloLandlord to:

Tens of thousands of Americans have used HelloLandlord to assert their rights. It only takes 5 minutes to generate a high quality letter—the kind of letter a lawyer would write. And we offer discount codes so you can send your letter by mail, right from your computer.

SixFifty is building more tools to help renters all the time. For more information, email probono@sixfifty.com.

Sources