Florida law governs the contents of rent to own contracts. If the contract contains terms which are prohibited under the law, those terms are void and cannot be enforced against you in court. Moreover, anyone who violates the law may be subject to penalties which could include fines and you could recover damages.
(For other articles on consumer and debtor protections in Florida, visit our Florida Debt Management Center.)
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 up front. By entering into a rent to own contract, you are agreeing to a short term (less than four months) rental arrangement. Each time you pay the rent and keep the rented property, the agreement renews for another term until you have paid the purchase price in full and become the owner of the property. 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.
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.
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 cannot contradict, detract from, or draw attention away from any disclosures required by law.
The following details must be included in Florida rent to own contracts:
The following terms are prohibited by law. If they are included in your contract, they are void and not enforceable against you. The agreement cannot:
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.
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.
A lessor that wilfully violates the law may be subject to fines. Provided you have given the lessor 30 days notice of a violation which 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.
Need a lawyer? Start here.