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Tampa Real Estate Lawyer > Blog > Landlord Tenant > When A Tenant Breaks A Lease

When A Tenant Breaks A Lease


In general, it is never a good idea to break a lease, either as a tenant or a landlord, but there are moments when there may be no other choice. Whether due to harassment, safety issues, or an obligation like being called up to the military, it is important that a tenant’s choosing to break a lease be handled appropriately. If you are a landlord faced with this event, consulting an attorney may be a good first step to managing the issue.

Do I Have A Cause of Action?

The first question to ask when a tenant declares their intent to break a lease can be an unpleasant one – but it is necessary to ask yourself if your actions may have led to their choice. Disagreements with or harassment from one’s landlord is a common reason for tenants to choose to break their lease – if there have been disagreements about required maintenance, for example, or if the property is demonstrably unsafe, a tenant will generally be justified in either withholding rent or breaking the lease altogether under Florida law, as long as they follow proper procedure.

If your actions have not been a cause of the broken lease, the next step is to evaluate whether the tenant’s reason is legally acceptable to the point where you are not able to receive damages for their early termination. For example, Florida law allows military servicemembers to terminate a lease early without penalty as long as they can show that at least one of a handful of criteria is true – the most common being if the servicemember is “prematurely or involuntarily” discharged or released from active duty. If you still believe you may have a cause of action against your tenant, you must then take action.

Possible Remedies For The Break

If the tenant has vacated the premises and you currently have a writ of possession for the property, Florida law grants you four possible remedies, though the best will obviously depend on the specific nature of your situation. They are:

  • Consider the rental agreement terminated and simply retake the unit, though doing this absolves the tenant of any potential liability;
  • Retake the unit, but hold the departed tenant liable for any difference between what they would have paid and the rent able to be received from a new tenant – this does come with a requirement to attempt in good faith to re-let the property;
  • If provided for in the now-broken lease, charge liquidated damages or an early termination fee to the former tenant; or
  • Simply do nothing and continue to hold the departed tenant liable for any rent due.

Each situation is different, and it will depend which remedy best befits yours. Regardless, it is often best to consult an attorney before choosing one of them, to ensure that proper procedure is followed (and your right to that remedy is preserved).

Contact A Tampa Landlord/Tenant Attorney

Breaking a lease is not a step a tenant takes unless they feel as though they have no choice. If your tenant has broken their lease, contacting a Tampa landlord/tenant attorney from the Seward Law Office can be your first step toward pursuing your legal remedies. Attorney Alicia Seward has handled many of these cases, and will work hard on yours. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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