Rights of Tenants Without a Lease in Florida

By Wilhelm Schnotz
Tenants in Florida still have rights when they're not in a lease.
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Although terms of occupancy are spelled out in a lease, tenants who occupy a property in Florida without a lease still have a legal claim to the property. By virtue of paying rent, they receive rights and protections through state landlord-tenant laws that cover every property-rental transaction in the state.

Duration of Rental

Even if you don't have a lease that specifies the length of your occupancy, each time you make a rent payment in advance, the span of your payment is considered the duration of a lease in legal terms as defined by Florida Statue Section 83.46(2). If you pay monthly, you're treated the same as someone with a one-month lease on the property each time you make a payment. As long as your rent is paid, you're protected by (and bound to) Florida landlord-tenant law.

Building Code Requirements

No matter what the terms of a lease, or lack thereof, landlords must provide accommodations that are up to local building code. If no local building code exists, Section 83.51(1)(a)(b), F.S. sets forth minimum dwelling requirements. These requirements include keeping windows unbroken, providing a weatherproof structure, a minimum of two electrical outlets in each bedroom, hot water available in the kitchen and bathroom, providing a working flush toilet, and heating equipment, if it's provided, must be in good working order. If your residence doesn't meet these requirements, contact the building code enforcement agency of your city or county government.

Illegal Removal

If your rent is paid in advance, landlords can't force you out of the property until the next time your rent is due without going through the legal eviction process. In addition, as defined by Section 83.67, F.S., it's illegal for your landlord to turn off utilities, change locks on your doors or remove your belongings from the property in an attempt to drive you out of the building.

Security Deposits

Florida Statute Section 83.49, 3(b)(c), states that when you move out of a property in which you lived without a lease, your landlord is required to return your security deposit to you as he would under a traditional lessee situation. Your landlord has 15 days to return your deposit or provide accountability for withholding portions of it, and may not withhold portions for normal wear and tear, such as chipped paint, dirtied carpet and other damages incurred in reasonable use. The letter or check must be mailed certified mail to your last known mailing address.

Right to Privacy

As a tenant, you have a right to privacy as laid out in Section 83.53(2), F.S. Although your landlord can enter your home at any time in case of an emergency or to protect the property, such as to turn off the water in the case of a leaking pipe, he must provide notice 12 hours in advance if he wants to enter the property otherwise. This notice can only be served between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tenants who unreasonably withhold consent for inspection or visitation waive this right.

Limits of Protections

Because the frequency of your rent payment is treated as the length of a lease when you rent a property without a lease, failure to make a rent payment on time ends your tenancy and voids many of the protections applicable to tenants. Additionally, Section 83.57, F.S. requires your landlord to provide written notice in advance of terminating your tenancy. If you pay weekly, he must provide seven days' notice and give monthly rental tenants 15 days' prior notice to leave the property.

About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.