ORLANDO, Fla. – Recently, there has been an uptick in calls to Florida Realtors® Legal Hotline regarding termination of a lease and how much notice one side needs to give the other if they’re vacating or not renewing.
These callers have a vast range of assumptions as to what “the rule is” for notification as parties approach the end of a lease. Let’s break down how this actually works:
Caller #1: “The tenant isn’t renewing their lease but never let the landlord know. Isn’t the tenant obligated to notify the landlord they’re leaving?”
Answer: I know this is your favorite one, but it depends. Here is how you determine the answer though – look to the lease.
Does the lease require a certain number of days notification by the parties in the event they aren’t renewing and/or leaving the property? If not, then the lease ends when the lease ends. In legalese, this is called a tenancy of a specific duration. Example? The parties have a lease that starts on Oct. 1, 2020, and ends on Sept. 30, 2021. There is nothing in the lease that mentions anything about notification as to non-renewal or vacating the premises. As such, the lease ends on Sept. 30, 2021 – and neither side has a legal obligation to notify the other.
Caller #2: “The law requires the tenant to give at least 60 days’ notice to the landlord that tenant is vacating the premises.”
Answer: This is a common misconception likely based on the language in Chapter 83, Part II, of the Florida Statutes, most commonly referred to as the Landlord/Tenant Act. Specifically, section 83.575(1) states, in pertinent part, that “a rental agreement with specific duration may contain a provision requiring the tenant to notify the landlord within a specific period before vacating the premises at the end of the rental agreement … However, a rental agreement may not require more than 60 days’ notice …”
Let’s take a closer look at this one. First, it’s important to note that it says the rental agreement may contain a notification requirement. This means it doesn’t have to, but it could. So if the lease says nothing (see Caller #1 above), then there is no requirement.
Second, it says that if the agreement does contain this notification requirement, then it cannot require notice that is further out than 60 days. So this could mean there is a 25 day notice, a 30 day notice or a 58 day notice. It just can’t exceed 60 days. There is no generic rule of law that demands a 60-day notice.
Caller #3: “The tenant happened to run into the landlord, who said he would call him about a doing a walk through next week since the lease was ending. The tenant is panicking – he had no idea the landlord didn’t intend to renew the lease and didn’t intend to move out.”
Answer: As stated in the first example, look to the lease. If there is no notification requirement within the lease, then the tenant made a large assumption about being able to stay.
As I said before, the lease ends when the lease ends. Additionally, Florida Statute 83.575(1) states that if the lease requires notification from the tenant to the landlord as to vacating, there must be an equal requirement by the landlord to notify the tenant if the rental is not to be renewed. So once again, if the lease is silent on this issue, then there is no requirement for notification.
What to take away from this article? While the lease may contain a notification requirement by the parties, communication is still key. A “best practice” for property managers: Create a calendar reminder that a lease is ending soon. This gives you time to reach out to the landlord to inquire about interest in renewing so you can discuss this with the tenant. Maybe the landlord didn’t like that the tenant paid several rental payments late and never paid late fees. As such, the landlord has no interest in renewing with that tenant.
A wise property manager would convey the landlord’s intention of moving on with a new tenant and remind the current tenant that they’re expected to be out of the property by the end of the lease. This should be done early enough that the tenant has time to make alternate arrangements and move out. Calling a tenant the day before a lease ends isn’t the best way to handle this scenario.
It’s also recommended that a tenant interested in renewing a lease communicate that with the landlord before the end of the lease. Is the landlord willing to renew? If so, great. Get a new lease together for the parties to execute or enter into a month-by-month tenancy.
Regardless, it’s imperative for the parties to communicate even if the lease does not legally require it. Otherwise, you could have a situation where the tenant assumed they’d be able to stay, the landlord has no intention of renewing and, in fact, has signed a new lease with a new tenant to start next week. In short, a mess.
Meredith Caruso is Associate General Counsel for Florida Realtors
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