Articles Posted in Landlord-Tenant Disputes

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A Broward County business that was a party to a commercial lease agreement found out the hard way recently one of the many ways that such an agreement can go wrong and leave you with no recourse in the courts. That problem, in the Broward business’s situation, was an imperfectly drafted lease agreement. Don’t let that pitfall ensnare you. Be sure that the commercial lease agreement you sign will protect your business interests fully and be recognized as enforceable by the courts. To be sure you are executing the right commercial lease agreement, start by retaining the services of a skilled South Florida commercial lease attorney.

Z.C. was the owner of that Broward County business, which rented wave runners, parasails and scuba diving equipment. In 2007, the rental business inked a lease with a hotel’s owner that allowed the business to operate on a beach adjacent to the hotel. The lease agreement stated that the term of the lease was from September 18, 2007 until “the demolition of the property.” The parties worded the contract that way because the owner allegedly desired to allow the equipment rental business to stay as long as he operated a hotel there. (The owner allegedly was considering demolishing the hotel and converting the property into condominiums and, if that happened, then the equipment rental business would be expected to leave.)

Three years after the parties signed the lease, the owner sold the property rather than converting it into condos. Several months after the transaction, the new owner and operator of the hotel terminated the lease. The rental business sued the new hotel owner for breaching the lease, but the hotel owner emerged successful from the lawsuit.

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As of 11:59 p.m. on March 24, 2020, the City of Miami was under a “shelter in place” order due the COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, pandemic. The announcement stated that the order would remain in effect “until further notice.” These unprecedented conditions may have many businesses asking themselves… what will happen if I don’t perform as required under my lease (such as failing to pay rent)? If my landlord sues my business for breach of the lease, is there any way I can mount a successful defense? The answers to those questions are: it depends and… it depends. Each situation is unique depending on exactly how the terms of your lease agreement were worded. To get the customized advice you need for your specific situation, be sure to get in touch with an experienced South Florida commercial lease attorney.

Clients may consider substantial parts of their leases to be just “form language,” but skillful commercial attorneys know that many things the client writes off as perfunctory actually aren’t, and actually require close attention — needing to be carefully negotiated and skillfully drafted.

Take, for example, the clause in your commercial lease agreement that excuses your performance. Commercial tenants in Florida are probably a bit more aware of these clauses than many businesses elsewhere. That’s because one of these valid excuses often is “acts of God,” which refers to natural disasters like hurricanes and tropical storms.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost all business sectors in South Florida. Commercial rental property is no exception. The shutdown of non-essential businesses in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties has left many commercial tenants severely restricted or completely unable to generate revenue. The current circumstances have also placed great financial pressures on commercial landlords, as well. For tenants and landlords facing major issues, there may be alternatives to eviction. These may include things like workouts or lease restructuring, among other possibilities. To discuss your options and what makes the most business sense for you, be sure you are working with an experienced South Florida commercial real estate attorney.

As therealdeal.com reported, several South Florida commercial landlords are working with their tenants to keep those tenants out of the eviction process and in the spaces they currently occupy. Two South Florida-based landlords offered their tenants options including rent deferments, rent forbearances and partial rent payments, according to the report.

Landlords have several options if they have tenants impacted by COVID-19-related restrictions that are having difficulties paying rent. A landlord may declare a tenant in default and immediately begin pursuing legal action against the tenant and any guarantors, the landlord can declare a tenant in default but hold off on taking any enforcement action or the landlord can negotiate an amendment to the tenant’s lease.

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A summary judgment can be an important tool and a huge benefit in your commercial litigation case. A summary judgment on liability, for example, means that the court can decide the issue of liability without even having to have a full trial on that. A summary judgment in your favor, if you’re the plaintiff, means that, in addition to your not having to worry about proving liability at trial, it also keeps out any affirmative defenses the other side had if those defenses only relate to the question of liability. To do that though, you need all of the right documentation and other evidence, along with all the proper arguments, which is why it helps to have a knowledgeable Florida landlord-tenant attorney handling your case.

A recent commercial lease dispute case was a good example. The tenant and its landlord had a five-year lease. Like many commercial lease agreements, this one included a guaranty. The guaranty said that the guarantor promised “the due prompt and punctual performance of all obligations of, and the prompt payment when due.”

Problems emerged, the landlord told the tenant to vacate the space and the tenant sued the landlord for illegal self-help because, allegedly, the landlord changed the locks on the space and refused the tenant entry unless it paid rent. The landlord countersued for breach of contract and for unpaid rent. The landlord’s countersuit also named the guarantor as a party.

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