Can a landlord sue a tenant that breaks a lease?


Attorney Tom Olsen: Let's go back to work. And next in line is Wendy from Cocoa. Wendy, you're on News 96.5. Go ahead.

Wendy: Hey, good morning.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Hey.

Wendy: My question is, when you're having a lease with a tenant, and they don't give notice, and they move out, say, the second day of the month, they still owe for the entire month. Is that correct by Florida law?

Attorney Tom Olsen: Wendy, for that, I'm going to turn you over to Attorney Rob Solomon. So what Wendy's talking about is somebody breaking the lease and moving out in the middle of the night, what happens then Rob?

Attorney Rob Solomon: Which is actually pretty common, it happens a lot. So let's assume they have a years' lease just for example, and the money was due on the first of the month, you didn't get paid, and they moved out; they certainly owe that month. They might owe subsequent months as well, if their lease is for a year, if you are unable to rent. So in other words, you have a duty to mitigate, meaning to try to re-rent it, but if you can't re-rent it, and there was a lease and they bugged out on the lease, they would have not only this month's rent, but subsequent month's rent as well, that would be due.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Well, Rob, I think the good news for Wendy probably is, is that this would be a situation where she could probably consider the property to be abandoned, and she could retake possession without going to court.

Attorney Rob Solomon: Well, that's right. And just as well as that, is that she might be able to make a claim on the security deposit once there is a showing that they have moved out, which is – Tom is right, which is an abandonment, but you have to wait 15 days into the month, at least that long, and they have not paid the rent and you have reason to believe they're gone, you can retake possession of the premise. Now, you have a situation where they bugged out on the lease, you would then make a claim on the security deposit, pursuant to Security Deposit Law, and if they didn't respond, which I'm kind of guessing they might not, then you could take the security deposit.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Hey, Rob, how often do you have to break the news to the landlords, the bad news that to sue a former tenant is hard, difficult, and often not worthwhile? So if Wendy's thinking, "Hey, I'll just sue my tenants for the money they owe me," I've got to give her the bad news. That's probably not going to be successful.

Attorney Rob Solomon: Right. So that's a common part of our discussion, which is the futility of chasing tenants. That's the bad news. Here's the good news, which is: get a good security deposit. A lot of landlords believe that security deposit can only be one month. That is wrong. It can be as much as the market will bear. And so, the thing that makes you sleep well at night, if you're a landlord, is not the notion that you'll ever collect the judgment, it's the notion that you have a good security deposit.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Thank you Rob, we appreciate it.