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Landlord and Tenant Act
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Recent changes to the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act permit landlords to charge fees to tenants who vacate early.

On June 10, 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law HB 1489, which amends several provisions of the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Part II, Chapter 83, Florida Statutes).

The most significant change affects the remedies available to a landlord when a tenant terminates a rental agreement and vacates a dwelling prior to the agreement’s expiration. Before this change, a landlord could either treat the lease as terminated and retake possession of the dwelling on the landlord’s own account, thereby terminating any further liability of the tenant; retake possession for the account of the tenant, holding the tenant liable for the difference between the rent stipulated to be paid under the lease agreement and the amount the landlord was able to recover in a re-renting of the dwelling; or stand by and do nothing, holding the tenant liable for the rent as it came due.

The new law permits a landlord, as an alternate to these remedies, to charge liquidated damages or an early termination fee in connection with a tenant’s early termination of a rental agreement. A landlord may now charge an amount not to exceed two months’ rent (in addition to any unpaid rent or other charges that accrue through the end of the month in which the landlord retakes possession as well as charges for any damages to the dwelling) either as liquidated damages or as an early termination fee, provided that the landlord and tenant, at the time the rental agreement was made, had indicated acceptance of this remedy.

According to the new statute, a tenant “must indicate acceptance of liquidated damages or an early termination fee by signing a separate addendum to the rental agreement containing a provision substantially similar” to the provision set forth in the statute.

The new provision essentially offers the tenant two choices: either (1) the tenant agrees that he or she will pay to the landlord a specified sum that does not exceed two months’ rent if the tenant terminates the rental agreement early (in which case the landlord waives the right to seek additional rent from the tenant) or (2) the tenant doesn’t agree to liquidated damages or an early termination fee and acknowledges that the landlord will be able to pursue the remedies provided by law.

Soliciting Listings

Do you need a disclaimer on all your mailings?

Realtor® Mary learns through a friend that several of her neighbors are relocating. She obtains the names and addresses of everyone in the entire subdivision and sends everyone a postcard soliciting listings of residents who plan to sell their homes.

Realtor Dave lives in this subdivision and is furious when he receives Mary’s postcard as he has two listings in the area and both of his customers received solicitations. Nowhere on the postcard does it say that anyone who’s already exclusively listed with another broker should disregard the notice. 

Dave files an ethics complaint stating that Mary has solicited his customers. Dave’s frustration grows when he learns from his local Board that Mary has not acted unethically under the Realtor® Code of Ethics and that, therefore, no hearing will be held.

Why it’s not a violation:
Article 16, Standard of Practices (SOP) 16-2 allows Realtors to make general announcements/solicitations (mailings, telephone canvasses) to prospects, describing their services. In this situation, Mary sent the mailing to the entire subdivision, so this would be considered a general mailing. 

As SOP 16-2 doesn’t require a disclaimer regarding listed property be included in the mailing, failure to do so would not be a violation of the Code. Many sales associates do include a disclaimer to avoid receiving uncomfortable phone calls from consumers who wants to drop their current sales associate. If this were to happen to Mary, she would need to refer the unhappy consumer back to his or her listing agent. But it’s important to note that there is no disclaimer requirement.