Florida Restrictions on Rent-to-Own Contracts

Florida law places restrictions on rent-to-own contracts for items like furniture and other personal property.

By , Attorney · University of Miami Law School
Updated by Amy Loftsgordon, Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

People who don't have the cash or good credit to purchase household itemslike appliances, furniture, computers, and electronicssometimes choose to rent the goods with an option to buy them later.

Florida law governs the contents of rent-to-own contracts. If the contract contains terms prohibited under the law, those terms are void and can't be enforced against you in court.

Moreover, anyone who violates the law may be subject to penalties, including fines, and you could recover damages.

What Are Rent-to-Own Contracts in Florida?

Renting to own personal property, like a sofa or a television, is a way to acquire the property without committing to pay the full purchase price upfront. By entering into a rent-to-own contract, you agree to a short-term rental arrangement.

You sign a contract agreeing to make regular weekly or monthly payments and then you get the item. The longer the contract term, the less you'll pay each week or month. But you'll pay more in total because of price markups and fees.

Under a rent-to-own contract, the person or business collecting rental payments from you is called the "lessor." The person paying the rent is called the "lessee."

How Rent-to-Own Contracts Work in Florida

Each time you pay the rent and keep the rented property, the agreement renews for another term until you've paid the purchase price in full and become the property owner. If you decide not to go through with the purchase, you can terminate the agreement by returning the property at the end of any rental period. But you might not get back any of the money you've paid. And if you simply stop paying, you'll probably lose the item and the money you've paid.

Florida Restrictions on Rent-to-Own Contracts

Florida law requires that any rent-to-own contract be in writing and signed by both parties. It must include all essential terms before it is signed, and a copy of the signed contract must be delivered to you. The printed portion of the contract must be in at least six-point type and must include a notice which informs you that you should not sign the contract until all of the blanks are filled in and that you must be provided an exact copy of the signed agreement which you should keep for your legal protection.

The agreement must state all information clearly, using commonly understood words and phrases. It must be divided into sections with the topics clearly labeled. All amounts and percentages must be stated in numbers rather than words. Additional information may be included, but it can't contradict, detract from, or draw attention away from any disclosures the law requires.

Details That Must Be Included In Florida Rent-to-Own Contracts

The following details must be included in Florida rent-to-own contracts:

  • name and business address of the lessor
  • your name and personal or business address
  • a brief description of the property sufficient to identify it (this must include whether the property is new or was previously leased)
  • the total amount of the initial payment, including advance payments, delivery charges, and trade-in amounts
  • the amount of each rental payment to be paid and the due date
  • an itemization of any additional charges not included in the rental payment
  • the total amount you will end up paying for the purchase of the property under the agreement, including the total of all the rent payments, the initial payments, and any other fees or charges
  • the extent of your responsibility for loss or damage to the property other than normal wear and tear
  • your right to reinstate the agreement if you fall behind in payments, including disclosure of any penalties and other charges, and the method to be used for calculating any amount you need to pay to reinstate the agreement
  • the party that is responsible for maintaining or servicing the property during the term of the agreement and a brief description of the extent of the responsibility
  • when and under what circumstances you may terminate the agreement
  • a disclosure that you have the option to complete the purchase during the term of the agreement and the price or method for calculating the price if you exercise this option
  • a statement that any manufacturer's warranties in effect at the completion of the purchase will be transferred to you, and
  • the actual cash price of the property if you were to purchase it rather than enter into a rent-to-own agreement.

Your Rights Under Florida Rent-to-Own Laws

The following terms are prohibited by law. If they're included in your contract, they're void and not enforceable against you. The agreement can't:

  • require you to agree to wage garnishment, stipulate to a judgment, or grant the lessor a power of attorney on your behalf
  • give the lessor a right to illegally enter your property or breach the peace to recover or repossess the rental items if you don't pay
  • require you to waive any legal defenses, counterclaims, or rights to sue that you might have
  • require you to purchase insurance from the lessor ( it can require that you keep the property insured but not that you purchase it from the lessor)
  • impose early termination penalties or require the return of the property outside of the remedies allowed in the case of default and fees allowed for reinstatement or damage, or
  • impose a fee for any in-home collection of a payment unless the lessee has expressly agreed in writing to the fee, and the amount of the fee is disclosed in the rental-purchase agreement.

Limitations on Additional Charges

Florida law also limits the type of additional costs the rent-to-own lessor may charge.

  • Rental Renewal Charges. The lessor may charge a late fee, called a "rental renewal charge," if you fail to make your payment on time. Only one rental renewal charge of up to five dollars may be assessed for each late payment, no matter how late the payment is. The rental renewal charge may not be assessed against a timely payment, even if a prior payment remains outstanding.
  • Receipts. Upon request, you are entitled to a receipt at no charge when you make a payment.
  • Accounting. You are entitled to a complete account history upon request, but if you request more than one in any 12-month period, the lessor may charge a five-dollar fee.

Your Right to Reinstate the Contract

If you stop making payments under the agreement, you can preserve your right to reinstate the contract within 60 days if you promptly surrender or return the property to the lessor or its agent upon request. The 60-day time frame is calculated from the last day of the rental period for which you did pay. The total amount required to reinstate may include all unpaid rental payments, any rental renewal charges incurred, a reinstatement fee of no more than five dollars, and a delivery charge if the property needs to be redelivered.

If you reinstate, the lessor must provide you with the same property that you were renting before or substitute property of comparable quality and condition. If substitute property is provided, the disclosure as to whether the property is new or used must be made again.

Pros and Cons of Rent-to-Own Contracts

The potential benefits of rent-to-own contracts include the ability to build credit (some rent-to-own plans report your payments to the credit reporting agencies, but others don't) and eventually own the property.

But these kinds of contracts also have significant downsides, such as high-interest rates and expensive fees. Also, you could end up paying a lot more than the item is worth, often at least twice what you'd pay in cash, sometimes more. In addition, if you default (fall behind in payments), you might face hounding collection calls and harassment to try to get you to pay up.

Violations and Damages

A lessor that wilfully violates the law may be subject to fines. Provided you have given the lessor 30 days' notice of a violation that has not been corrected, you can sue for actual damages or 25% of the total cost of the purchase price plus attorneys' fees and court costs. The lessor's remedies are limited to those in the agreement and may not exceed the amounts set under the law, which can include attorneys' fees and costs.

What to Do If You Have Problems With a Rent-to-Own Contract

If you're having issues with the lessor of a rent-to-own contract, such as aggressive debt collection tactics, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). For more information about your rights under rent-to-own contracts, contact the Florida state attorney general's office or the Florida Division of Consumer Services. You might also consider contacting a consumer protection attorney.

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