What to Look For Before Signing a Lease
This page is not meant to be a complete summary of Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Laws or to address every possible issue which may be raised by a lease and/or the Landlord/Tenant Law (Statute 83, Part II). However, you should be aware that a lease is a legal document which is likely to have been prepared by the landlord’s attorney. Consequently, its provisions are likely to be most beneficial to the landlord. If you wish to have a lease reviewed by an attorney at Student Legal Services, please contact our offices. Our services are free to UCF students. We hope the following will help you identify things that you should review and consider before signing the lease.
Are you required to give a Notice of Non-Renewal or Intent to Vacate? Many leases nowadays require residents to notify the landlord/leasing office in writing if they intend to vacate when the lease expires (30 and 60 day notices are common). Failure to give this notice will result in landlords charging tenants extra rent (usually an extra month’s rent).
Beyond rent, what are you responsible for? Some apartments deem you responsible for changing lightbulbs and air filters. In houses, you could be responsible for lawn maintenance, pest control, pool care, and “small” repairs (i.e. under $100.00). What utilities are included? Are there any caps? If so, do current residents exceed them?
Is there a drug free or crime free provision? If so, being caught with drugs on the property can lead to eviction (and owing rent for the rest of the term of the lease, even if you aren’t living there). Marijuana is a schedule I drug under federal law.
Is there an early termination Clause/Liquidated Damage Clause? If not, and you leave before the lease expires, you will owe rent until the end of the lease or until the unit is re-rented, whichever occurs first. Most student apartments don’t offer early termination clauses.
Are you allowed to have pets? If so, do you have to pay a pet deposit (refundable?), Pet fee (non-refundable)? Pet rent?
Security Deposits Clauses. Read this clause carefully! It will tell you what can be deducted from your deposit and what you need to do to get it back. Some landlords include a list of what they will charge you at move-out in the lease – make sure you review it to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Move-in inspection reports. Most leases require tenants to complete a move-in inspection report within 24 or 48 hours after move-in. You should note all defects you observe in the move-in report and keep a copy for your records. If you don’t take this precaution, you could be held responsible for pre-existing damages.
Fees, Fines and other Penalties. Look out for pet fines (even for a visiting pet). Fees can be several hundred dollars per violation. Landlords treat fines as additional rent. Meaning if you don’t pay the fine, the landlord could threaten to evict you for non-payment of rent.
Does the Landlord require a guarantor? Most students will need a guarantor, but failure to provide one does not release you from the lease. Some leases require you to pay extra $ (security deposit/advance rent) if you do not have a guarantor.
Know the local occupancy limits! In Oviedo, a single-family home can only have three unrelated persons residing in it. In Orange County, it’s four.
Is the rental located in a HOA community? If so, there may be additional restrictions (i.e. limits on occupancy, parking on street, etc.) Review HOA rules/bylaws before signing the lease.
Individual vs. multiple party lease? Individual lease you are responsible for yourself, your bedroom and a fraction of any common spaces. You cannot be evicted for the failure to pay or actions of another tenant. If you are on the lease with others, you are responsible for their actions (i.e. damages they cause) and 100% of the rent (if they fail to pay). The security deposit also can become an issue if some parties decide to renew and some leave. Consider a roommate agreement in a multi-party lease!
* This website is for general education only. It is not intended to be used to solve individual problems.