Approximately 35% of Americans do not own their own homes. That is, of the 333 million Americans, about 114 million live in 44 million rented residences. This means that a significant portion of the country’s residents are constantly forced to get into the ins and outs of the rental process as real estate renters.
In Florida, the third most populous state in America, renters are also quite numerous. Their number, having started to grow from 2.1 million in 2007, was fixed at 2.6-2.7 million in 2015 and has remained almost unchanged since then.
At the same time, the homeowner community has been growing continuously since 2013, adding about 100,000 owners each year. Such a trend could contribute to the democratization of the market, if it were not for the prices of real estate in Florida – only in the last 5 years they have increased by 80% and do not plan to stop. In addition, the number of people willing to rent out their properties in the US is constantly decreasing. In addition to U.S. citizens, many foreigners are also renting. It is often easier for them to rent an apartment in Florida at an average monthly rent of about $ 2.5 thousand, than to look for money to buy a villa or a new building in Florida.
The general issues of renting and leasing residential space in Florida are governed by Chapter 83 of Part Two of the Florida Statutes as amended in 2019. It details the nature of the relationship between the homeowner (landlord) and the tenant (tenant). It should be noted right away that owners of mobile homes (trailers and the like) renting space in a specialty campground should be governed by a completely different part of the law, namely Chapter 723. However, since no more than 5% of Americans live in them, and even fewer are visitors, we will not consider this case.
Any renting of your own real estate for money should be formalized by a contract, which has the following characteristic features:
- It can be written or oral. Whenever possible, a written agreement is recommended. An oral agreement, even one made in the presence of witnesses, can always be misinterpreted and you could lose your home and your money. By the way, notice of a rent increase can only be given in writing. And a rental agreement for more than a year must be on paper anyway.
- The contract is for a fixed term or indefinitely. With an open-ended one, you pay rent monthly or weekly, and this fee can be renegotiated by the owner at any time. Termination of a monthly agreement is by notice to either party at least 15 days before the next rent due date, and such a lease is terminated exactly by that date. For weekly payments, the notice must be received by the other party at least 7 days in advance.
- Important: try to always deliver and receive such and other notices in person, it is easy to miss the deadlines with mailings. Fee increases follow the same pattern. In Florida, the owner of private housing can terminate an open-ended lease at any time, no additional grounds are needed. Therefore, this form entails certain risks for the tenant.
- When you sign a contract for a specific period of time, you are insured against sudden eviction or increase in rent, but are tied to a specific address. In Florida, a landlord is not required to give you a refund if you terminate your lease early, for example, if you need to move for work or if your family changes and you want to rent something else. To protect yourself from possible losses, you can provide a special clause in the contract, but not the fact that the landlord will go for it. Or try to re-rent the rented accommodation to another person, but about this below.
- The peculiarity of the state of Florida – at the end of the lease agreement, it is considered terminated. In order to continue renting the home, the tenant must explicitly express that intent, preferably in writing. If the owner does not plan to continue the relationship, and the tenant refuses to move out, then quite legally his rent can be increased by 2 times. At the same time, all rules for notice periods for both termination and renewal of the lease apply to both parties.
- Standard rules for eviction for rent arrears must be spelled out in the agreement. These include a three-day notice to evict a non-paying tenant, which is usually just pinned to the door. However, these days do not include weekends and holidays, and an additional 5 days are added if delivered by mail. Of course, if payment is made during this period, no one has the right to evict the tenant. Then he can file a counterclaim within five days, but it is certainly not worth it to bring it to court.
- It spells out important terms of the lease, such as the ability to live with pets or the availability of a parking space. The owner can evict the tenant for failure to comply with such conditions, but not always. For example, if you put your car in someone else’s parking space, but after a comment you stopped, this is a “correctable violation” and you can’t be evicted for it. However, you must correct the violation within a week of notification and not repeat it. But for hooliganism against neighbors or destruction of the landlord’s property, you can be evicted unconditionally.
- Also, almost always in the contract there is a clause about making a security deposit – usually in the amount of rent for 1 month. Although it is mainly for unexpected repairs or unpaid bills, the deposit can often be withheld if the tenant moves out prematurely. To limit costs to this deposit only, rather than paying for the entire remaining term of the lease, include such an agreement in the text of the contract or sign it separately with the owner.
- The possibility of re-letting the rented accommodation (sublet) can also be fixed in the contract. Then you have the right to re-rent the apartment if you do not use it, or to rent it yourself from the same tenant who has moved out. Remember that a verbal sublet does not impose any obligations on the owner, so he can evict a stranger at any time.
General rules for signing agreements
Common to all rental agreements – always try to clarify all the points before signing. Never sign a document that has some sections left blank, such as a penalty for late rent. Keep in mind that Florida law does not regulate the amount of such penalties, nor does it specify grace periods for payment. These things should be clearly stated in the contract.