Even if a tenant living in the state of Florida doesn't have a lease, they still have the same rights as a tenant without a lease who has just paid rent. They receive protection through the state's landlord-tenant laws, which cover all renters. A person without a lease agreement can be a holdover tenant, meaning they did have a lease that has since concluded or they started their tenancy without a written lease.
Tenant Rights in Florida
Florida law entitles every tenant, with or without a written lease, to the right of peaceful, private possession of a residence. Once they begin paying rent, the dwelling unit is theirs to use lawfully, and the landlord or property owner can enter the rental property only to make repairs or to inspect it. When they do, they must come at a time convenient to the tenant and give reasonable notice. In the case of an emergency, the notice requirement may be shorter or waived entirely.
A tenant has the right to inhabit a unit with adequately working plumbing, hot water and heat. They have the right to working and locking doors and windows, and the dwelling cannot have pests or vermin. Florida landlords must install functioning smoke detectors and comply with state and municipal building, safety and health codes. If the unit needs repairs to make it habitable, the landlord must pay for them.
Withholding Rent and Moving Out
The tenant can withhold their rent if they live under aggravated circumstances caused by a landlord or property owner's neglect, such as failing to meet state or municipal housing codes to provide a habitable and safe dwelling. Before the tenant can stop paying rent, however, they must allow the landlord to fix the issue by giving them seven days written notice of it. Once they start withholding rent payments, tenants can save that money and ask the court for permission to fix the problem themselves. If they do not save the rent money or ask the court if they can make the correction, the landlord may attempt to evict them for nonpayment of rent.
The tenant can move out of the premises if they so choose. A renter with a written lease can check the lease terms to see the amount of notice they must give before moving. A tenant without a lease can give notice of their leaving seven days before their rent payment is due if they are week-to-week tenants, and 15 days before it's due if they are month-to-month. No matter how long the tenant has lived in the unit, they may terminate their tenancy seven days before their next rent payment is due if the landlord has not lived up to a significant obligation.
Notice for Ending a Tenancy
A tenant might not have a lease if they are a holdover tenant, meaning they had a written lease or a rental agreement that has since concluded or they may have been without a written lease since the beginning of their relationship with the landlord. No matter how long they've lived in the unit, Florida laws state that if a tenant does not have a written lease agreement with the landlord and lives on the property, the duration of their tenancy will be calculated by the frequency in which they pay the rent.
If the landlord wishes to remove a tenant, they must serve them with a termination notice specific to the length of their tenancy in which payment of rent occurs. For example, tenants who pay rent yearly will get a 60-day notice to quit; if a tenant pays rent on a quarterly basis, the landlord must provide a 30-day notice to quit. The landlord must give the tenant a 15-day notice to quit for month-to-month tenants, and week-to-week tenants will get a seven-day notice to quit.
Reasons for Removing a Tenant
A landlord cannot use retaliatory reasons to remove someone. For example, they cannot remove a tenant who complains about potentially unsafe living conditions or someone with children simply because they don't want children on the property. Tenants who believe a landlord is attempting to remove them illegally should contact an attorney.
It's important to remember that when a landlord wishes to end their relationship with a tenant, it is not the same as an eviction. Florida landlords can evict their tenants only if they did something wrong while living on the property, such as failing to pay rent or engaging in illegal activities. They generally do not need a reason to terminate their relationship with a tenant, but they can't discriminate against the protected classes under fair housing laws or retaliate against them for exercising their legal rights.
Florida Eviction Process
Florida landlord-tenant law requires landlords to deliver an eviction notice to a tenant by giving it to them in person, mailing it to them (certified mail not required) or leaving notice at the rental unit. After the landlord sends the tenant a notice to vacate, they must do so by the time allotted. If they do not, the landlord can file a complaint with the county court, which then serves the tenant with a summons and complaint.
The tenant has the right to contest the eviction proceeding; if they do not, the landlord can ask the court for a Judgment for Possession. If the court grants the landlord this motion, they can post a Writ of Possession on the property, which is a final notice for the tenant to remove their personal belongings. After the writ is posted, a sheriff will return the premises to the landlord.
Removing the Tenant and Their Belongings
When evicting the tenant, the landlord should never attempt to force them out – removal can only occur after winning an eviction lawsuit. The landlord cannot physically remove the tenant from the property by locking the unit or by putting the tenant's personal belongings on the curb. Only a sheriff or other law enforcement officer has the legal authority to evict a tenant. A landlord who takes eviction procedures into their own hands may find themselves the subject of a lawsuit by the tenant.
The landlord also has to follow the law regarding a tenant's personal property. If a renter leaves it in the unit after they move out, the landlord must notify them in writing that the property is still there. Renters get a minimum of 10 days to claim personal property if the landlord delivers the notice in person or 15 days if they send it by mail. Until then, the landlord must store it and can charge the tenant for storage costs. If the tenant does not claim their property within the applicable time, the landlord can either sell it or dispose of it however they see fit.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.