Over the past few months I have filed several class action cases for clients arising from accelerated rent charges by landlords. These cases all involve student housing and arise from what I believe are unlawful lease provisions that the landlords have written into their lease agreements. The leases claim to give the landlord the right to demand immediate payment of all future rent payments for the entire term of the lease if the tenant breaches the lease, and the lease is terminated.
Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 83.47) is very clear that a residential landlord cannot create remedies which are not allowed by the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act. A lease provision that gives the landlord a right to collect more than the law allows is invalid. When a tenant breaches a lease, or terminates a lease early, the remedies available to a landlord are limited by statute (Fla. Stat. § 83.595) to one of the following:
- Treat the lease as terminated and retake possession, terminating any further liability of the tenant.
- Retake possession, then holding the tenant liable for the difference between the rent due under the lease and the amount the landlord can recover by re-renting the rental property. The law requires the landlord to exercise “good faith” in re-renting the property, which means that the landlord must use the same efforts the landlord used when marketing the property to the tenant.
- Stand by and do nothing, holding the tenant liable for rent as it becomes due.
- Charge the tenant liquidated damages of up to two months’ rent, but this is only allowed if the lease contains an optional provision that gives the tenant the choice of selecting this option when signing the lease. It cannot be mandatory.
I believe that a landlord’s demand that a tenant pay accelerated rent violates both the Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act and the Florida Consumer Collections Practices Act. Violations of these laws by a landlord may entitle a tenant to recovery of their monetary damages, along with declaratory and injunctive relief, and recovery of their attorney fees. Because of the often-modest amounts involved and the systematic way in which these charges are imposed upon students and their families, these cases are most cost-effectively brought as class action cases which may help many other former tenants who have also been harmed.