Knowing your rights as a renter (often referred to as tenant rights) helps protect you from housing discrimination or unfair practices like rent or fee gouging. It also helps ensure you always have a clean, safe place to live and that there's no confusion about which responsibilities are yours and which are your landlord's.
Every state's laws are a little different; read on for details about Florida's.
While lease agreements tend to be pretty lengthy, we strongly recommend you get yourself a tasty beverage, find a comfortable chair, and read the lease—at least three times. If this is your first time renting or the lease feels especially overwhelming, fear not. We’ll walk you through a couple of things to look out for.
As a renter, you have essentially agreed to pay a monthly rent to the owner of the house or apartment serving as your home. First and foremost, pay this rent! By signing a lease, you’re contractually obligated to submit this payment each and every month that you live at this home.
While rent is your number one responsibility, there may be other things that you need to take care of, depending on what you agree to in your rental agreement/lease. For example:
- Yardwork (Cutting the grass, trimming the trees, etc.)
- Renter insurance
- Cable & Internet
- Snow removal (if applicable)
Depending on how your lease reads, you may be expected to pay for or perform the work yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing so, try to negotiate in advance of signing a lease. (Some cities also required landlords to cover the cost of certain utilities so check your city or state website to confirm.) It’s okay if you are not comfortable paying for or performing these responsibilities—try and negotiate with the landlord if possible. If you cannot come to an agreement on the terms of the lease agreement, shop around for a home and landlord that is willing to work with you.
As a renter, you also have to maintain a decent property and living space (FLA. STAT. § 83.52). This means you have to follow building codes and regulations related to your unit’s health and safety. You also have to give your landlord access to your rental unit, though they have to give you advance notice (FLA. STAT. § 83.53).
Your landlord's responsibilities
Your landlord’s responsibilities begin when the lease is signed and continue until shortly after you move out. At a minimum, the landlord is responsible for providing you with an acceptable place to live (FLA. STAT. § 83.51). This means the rental unit must be, by legal standards, relatively clean and safe.
The landlord must also take care of things like trash and utilities (basically, everything mentioned above under “Renter Responsibilities”) unless they’ve been specifically outlined as your responsibility in the lease. If there’s no language in the rental agreement that specifically requires you, as the renter, to mow the grass outside your rental unit, it is safe to assume that your landlord will take care of it. If there is any confusion about who is responsible for what, it’s a good idea to talk with your landlord before signing the lease.
In Florida, landlords are also responsible for the extermination of pests, such as rats, mice, roaches, ants, bedbugs, and wood-destroying organisms. If you have to move out while your landlord gets rid of any pests, you can’t be charged rent for that time (FLA. STAT. § 83.51).
Rental repairs and maintenance
In general, most landlords want to keep their rental units in decent shape. The longer they delay repairs, the more it costs them in the future. Here's Roost's guide on how to request repairs from your landlord, and here’s what you need to know specifically about Florida.
- Your landlord must provide 12 hours notice if they need to enter your place to do repairs or maintenance. The only exception is if it’s an emergency like there’s water spilling out of your apartment
They also can’t show up at a crazy time of day. Florida says doing repairs must take place during a “reasonable” time of day, sometime between 7:30 am and 8:00 pm (FLA. STAT. § 83.53).
Who’s usually responsible?
A leak in the roof or ceiling
Paint mistakenly splashed on the walls
Broken steps to the front door
Light bulbs burned out in your rental
Broken water heater or dishwasher
Power Outage due to loose wiring
Rental security deposits
In Florida, there is no limit on the amount of security deposit a landlord can require. The amount they set is likely influenced by what other units are available to rent but overall, they can set whatever number they feel most comfortable with as the deposit on a unit. After you’ve paid your deposit, expect a receipt—your landlord is required to provide you with written notice of a security deposit or advanced rent. (For alternatives to paying a full upfront security deposit, check out companies like Rhino and The Guarantors.)
When do you get your security deposit back after you move out? Assuming you leave your unit in good shape and have not missed any rent payments, your landlord must return your security deposit within 15 days after you have moved out of the rental unit (FLA. STAT. § 83.49).
Rental agreements: rent increases, payment, and fees
If you are entering into a new rental situation, it’s very important to understand the financial side of your new living arrangement. While most people tend to base their decision on the rent amount, don’t be surprised if your landlord requires you to pay other fees. These include:
- Security deposit - There are no limitations on how much security deposit your landlord can charge.
- Screening fee - There are no limits on the amount of this fee but you have to receive advance notice, and in writing.
- Late rent fees - Florida doesn’t provide much direction here. Late rent fees are allowed but they must be “reasonable”. If you feel like your landlord is taking advantage of you, challenge them about it.
- Cleaning fee - There are no limits on the amount of this fee but you have to receive advance notice, and in writing.
- Application/reservation fee - There are no limits on the amount of this fee but you have to receive advance notice, and in writing.
- Rent increases - Florida doesn’t have rent control measures in place. However, like most of the other money-related changes and fees, landlords must provide proper advance notice, in writing.
- Pets - Check your lease before you get a pet. Florida law doesn’t require landlords to accept pets, and if you don’t get permission in advance, it can be considered a violation of your lease and be cause for eviction. Additional pet rent or pet security deposit is not uncommon.
- Emotional support and service animals - If you have a mental or emotional disability, federal laws state landlords must make “reasonable accommodations”, which can include an emotional support or service animal. There are a few exceptions and this tends to be a pretty tricky area for both renters and landlords to navigate together, so be upfront about what you need and follow all required steps. Landlords cannot charge you extra for an emotional support or service animal.
Read Roost's What to know before signing that rental lease for additional tips.
Rent termination and eviction
Once you’ve moved into your rental unit, the place is yours until your lease is up, your landlord terminates the rental agreement early, or you’re evicted. Eviction is an unpleasant process for everyone, so it’s best for you and your landlord to do everything you can to avoid it. Being evicted makes it hard to find housing, can affect your credit, and does not relieve you from paying rent unless the landlord finds someone new to move in.
Your landlord can only evict you under certain circumstances. The most common reasons for eviction are missing rent for three days or more (FLA. STAT. § 83.56) or violating the lease (unauthorized pets or occupants--things like that). They can also end the lease for a reason that’s not your fault, as if the property becomes unlivable and untenable (FLA. STAT. § 83.56). Or it’s about to enter foreclosure (i.e. your landlord isn’t making their payments on a loan for the property, so the bank is taking over).
However, they can’t simply change the locks, dump your stuff on the front yard and kick you out.
As a general rule, the landlord is required to provide you with a written notice that you’ve broken your lease--or that they are ending it for one of the reasons mentioned earlier.
Renting and safety
Most of the time, if you want to break your lease early, this comes with some fees and costs. However, there’s a really important exception: domestic violence and sexual assault. Victims of domestic violence can provide written notice to their landlord and move out. The same is true for a victim of sexual assault in a rental unit.
Renting with roommates
Sometimes your roommate situation just doesn’t work out. Unfortunately, you’re both responsible for the lease, and in many ways, you’re both responsible for each other’s actions. Depending on how your rental agreement is written, if your roommate bails, you could be stuck having to pay the full rent on your own. While you can use legal action to go after your former roommate, you may still have to pay full rent when it’s due.
If you or your roommate have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, the victim can end the lease early without penalty. This usually means both people end up moving out (FLA. STAT. § 83.56).
Rental housing discrimination
Thanks to Fair Housing laws in Florida, you’re protected from discrimination when applying for a rental (FLA. STAT. § 760.20, 42 U.S.C. 3601). This means that the landlord or property manager can’t base their decision any of the following:
- National Origin
- Gender Identity
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Presence of Children
- Military/Veteran Status
Despite these protections, some people find a way to use a negative background check or a credit report as cover for discrimination. If you feel like any of the above factors were actually the reason why you were denied a place, you may want to talk with an attorney.
A number of states, including Florida, have stepped up to make sure renters can stay in their homes even if they’re struggling to make rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Florida, all evictions are suspended until August 1. While most local utility providers have announced that they won’t shut off your services for non-payment during the COVID-19 crisis, you should check with your provider to make sure. You can also visit the Florida state website for more information.
Note: While these policies are in effect, it does not forgive the rent you owe. If you are struggling to make rent due to a loss of income related to COVID-19, you can contact your local SHIP office for funding assistance. To conduct a search on affordable rental housing in Florida state, visit this website.
The Trump administration recently announced a new executive order for a rent moratorium through the end of the 2020 year. The order was put forward by the Centers for Disease Control to help prevent Covid-19 spread. Under the updated directive, families must prove they tried to pay their rent and that eviction would force them into a shelter or close quarters with others. If this covers you, then you’ll need to attest to your situation and a substantial loss of income on a form. Forms are to come available via the CDC website.
The order does not waive any rent debt — it just defers it — still leaving many renters vulnerable. And, it still allows landlords to charge fees, penalties, and interest, according to the draft document posted on September 1st.
The executive order covers more renters than the former CARES Act moratorium which only protected those living in housing with a federally backed mortgage loan, public housing, Section 202 housing for the elderly, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, rural rental housing, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, USDA housing voucher, or VA voucher. That Act protection expired on July 25, 2020.
The executive order covers more renters than the former CARES Act federal moratorium on evictions which only protected those living in housing with a federally backed mortgage loans, public housing, Section 202 housing for the elderly, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, rural rental housing, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, USDA housing voucher, or VA voucher. That Act protection expired on July 25, 2020.
Stay tuned... Congress is currently working on a bill called the CARES Act 2, which could afford more protection for renters if passed.
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If you need some more information, check out some of the resources listed below:
State rules and regulations
Florida Title 6 Chapter 83 - Landlord and Tenant
Your renters rights, in your state.
Explore what you need to know.
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- Washington, D.C. Renters Rights
You probably already know that we’re not a law firm, but just to make sure we get this out of the way: We can’t provide any advice or opinions about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options, selection of forms, or strategies. And by hanging out with us here at Roost, you agree to our Legal disclaimer.