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In the Top 10 Commandments for Renting in Miami-Dade, we covered how to avoid the common rental pitfalls. In The Rental, Process Miami-Dade , we went step by step into the lease process; now we are going to focus on step #4, signing the contract.
Most Residential Lease contracts in Miami follow the same format. The official name of this contract is:
“RESIDENTIAL LEASE FOR APARTMENT OR UNIT IN MULTI-
FAMILY RENTAL HOUSING (OTHER THAN A DUPLEX)
INCLUDING A MOBILE HOME,CONDOMINIUM, OR COOPERATIVE
(FOR A TERM NOT TO EXCEED ONE YEAR)”
It was approved by the Florida Supreme Court on April 15th, 2010 for use under rule 10-2.1(a) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.
This contract is based on the “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” CHAPTER 83 PART II (ss. 83.40-83.682). While all rental contracts are subject to these laws, its advisable to use the standard Florida Residential Lease Contract when leasing a property, which most real estate brokers will provide.
Make sure to open the contract PDF to follow along. We will cover the most essential sections of the Lease Contract and what it means for you and the Landlord.
1. Non-lawyer Disclosure Rental Information (Pages 1-2).
This informs you the agent who prepared the lease is not an attorney and did not write the contract. As explained before, these contracts are written and approved by the Florida Supreme Court, agents just fill in the blanks to match your information.
“I. TERMS AND PARTIES” & “II. PROPERTY RENTED”
This states the name of the landlord as shown in the Miami-Dade Property records, the name of the tenant(s), landlord and tenant’s phone number and email, property address, appliances included (Refrigerator, Oven, etc)
“II. COMMON AREAS” & “IV. RENT PAYMENTS AND CHARGES”
Common areas are sidewalks, walkways and lobbies, and often amenities that included with the rental.
The contract then establishes the monthly rent, what day of the month its due, and any applicable taxes (usually if the lease is 6 months or less). There is a section for prorating the rent in case the tenancy starts a day other than the one in the contract (often common since tenants have to wait for the unpredictable association approval).
“V. DEPOSITS, ADVANCE RENT, AND LATE CHARGES”
This section is important! Here, the payments due and when they are due are covered. Usually, half of the security deposit is required at signing. So it will read on the first blank the amount you are bringing (one month’s worth).
Advanced rent (not common), pet deposits, late charges and bad check fees are covered below. Remember that bad check fees cannot exceed $20 or 5% of the monthly rent; so don’t let them put a $100 fee on a $1,200 lease!
Usually in the “Other” box below, it will state you are to give the remaining security deposit or last month, and the first months rent when they give you the keys at the walk through; three months in total. One when you sign, and two at the walk through after the association approval.
“VI. SECURITY DEPOSITS AND ADVANCED RENTS”
If you gave a security deposit, the landlord must keep it in a separate non-interest bearing account in a Florida financial institution. The Landlord can NOT mix this money with his/her personal funds since that is YOUR money, not his/hers (unless a claim in the deposit has been settled.)
Its also important to receive a proof, certificate or escrow letter confirming the landlord is in possession of your deposit.
This is how you get in contact with the Landlord to discuss payments or report maintenance.
” VIII. USE OF PREMISES”
You shall use the unit only for residential purposes; not as an office in which you see clients, or a store, or any other reason that is not residential dwelling. You are also responsible for following the Condominium or Home Owner Association’s rules and ensuring your guests follow do as well.
This section also covers the admission of pets, smoking, length of overnight guest stays by guest, and your promise to not keep dangerous or flammable materials inside the unit, not perform alterations without landlord’s consent, and not destroy the property.
The landlord is required to provide tenant with a hospitable and lawful place to live in accordance with local and state law, building codes and regulations. This includes, roofs, pluming, foundations, walls, and all structural elements of the unit.
The check boxes below are the “Elective Maintenance” in which specific maintenance responsibilities are assigned to either tenant or landlord. Remember that if a check box is left blank its the owner’s responsibility.
It also states the landlord will be responsible for “major repairs” and tenant for “minor repairs”. The amount of what a major repair is considered is filled in the blank.
All utilities will be paid by the tenant EXCEPT the ones in the blank. If it says “WATER”, then you don’t have to pay water.
“XI. SERVICE MEMBER”
Active duty military can break the lease without loosing the security deposit if he/she is reassigned to another location for duty.
“XII. LANDLORD ACCESS TO PREMISE”
The landlord can’t just walk in on you whenever he/she want, unless there is an emergency (i.e. fire or flood). The landlord must give the tenant adequate notice before inspecting and entering the unit.
“XIII. PROHIBITED ACTS BY LANDLORD”
There are things a landlord can’t do; like cutting off utilities, raising prices within the lease term, entering without notice or asking you to leave before your contract is over (as long as you’ve been paying on time).
“XIV. CASUALTY DAMAGE”
If the property is destroyed and it was not your fault (like a fire, hurricane or other disaster) you may terminate the lease within 30 days of the damage without having to pay the remaining rent or loosing your security deposit.
” XV. DEFAULTS/REMEDIES”
There are consequences for the landlord and tenant alike for defaulting on the lease (more on that later.)
“XV. ASSIGNMENT AND SUBLEASING”
Unless that box is checked, do not rent out the unit to someone else!
“XVI. RISK OF LOSS”
Remember that your personal items are not the responsibility of the landlord. If there is a break in, fire, or flood and your stuff gets damage, he/she will not cover any of it. That’s why its important to consider getting renter’s insurance.
“X.VII SUBORDINATION” & “XIX. LIENS”
This lease is subordinate to any mortgage liens on the title (if any).
“XX. APPROVAL CONTINGENCY”
Remember that your contract is contingent of the association approving you. If you are denied, there is no contract. Normally the tenant pays the one time application fee with and the landlord pays the association deposit.
The lease can never exceed one year, and it can only be renewed/or extended by a written agreement between landlord and tenant.
“XXII. LEAD-BASED PAINT”
Properties in Florida built before 1978 may have lead based paint on the walls. Lead based paint has been linked to potential health health hazards if not managed properly. If the property was built on 1978 or before, the landlord will state it here.
Even if a unit was built on 1978 or before, it should not cause alarm as the new layers of paint cover the old and keep it sealed.
“XXIII. ATTORNEYS’ FEES”
In the event of a lawsuit, the winning party gets their court fees reimbursed by the losing party.
” XXIV. MISCELLANEOUS.”
– The lease requires you to apply to the association fast
-This contract cannot be terminated orally
-This lease is based and governed by Florida Law, specifically the “Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act” (pages 9 to 18 of the PDF)
-Any lawsuits shall be filled in the same county as the unit in question
“XXV. TENANT’S PERSONAL PROPERTY”
You are responsible for taking all your stuff when you leave the unit!
“EARLY TERMINATION FEE/LIQUIDATED DAMAGES ADDENDUM”
This regards what happens if you break the lease, or leave the unit for ANY reason before the contract is over:
1. You will loose the security deposit (not to exceed two month’s rent) and the landlord can take no further legal action against you.
2. You do not agree to the two month’s deposit as penalty, but the landlord may sue you for the remaining months of the lease.
Number 1 is the better option to protect the tenant, as the worst that happen is loosing the two months, as opposed to being sued and forced to pay the remaining months of the contract.
Remember that if you have not moved in the unit, but you signed the contract and then backed out, the landlord can still keep the deposit you already gave as liquidated damages. As soon as you sign, there is no turning back unless you want to loose your deposit!
Hope you now have a deeper understanding on the Lease Contract in Miami-Dade; remember as a tenant you have rights and obligations that are to be taken seriously.
Now you will have a leg up over all others when is comes to renting a unit!