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How a Failure to Mitigate Damages Harmed One Commercial Landlord’s Breach of Lease Case in Florida

In a commercial lease dispute, the outcome of the case may hinge upon the plaintiff’s ability to prove that the other side’s conduct met the legal standard for a breach of the lease agreement. Even if the plaintiff successfully shows that its opponent breached the contract, the defense may still be able to reduce or eliminate the damages award by succeeding in showing that the plaintiff failed to mitigate its damages. There are many different issues that can decide a commercial lease case. Be prepared for your litigation by making sure you have experienced South Florida commercial leasing counsel on your side.One recent case from Brevard County was an example of such a lease dispute, in which the issue of mitigation of damages was central. The case began when each side accused the other of breaching the lease. The landlord eventually filed two different complaints against the tenant for breaching the lease.

In this case, the key issues were deciding which party breached the lease and when the landlord retook possession of the property. Why was the date of the landlord’s retaking possession so important? It comes down to something called “mitigation of damages.” The law says that, if you are harmed by another party’s breach of contract, you are entitled to recover the damages you suffered, but you are required to take all reasonable steps to reduce your harm.

You do not have to go to extremes or make major sacrifices to mitigate; just take those actions that are reasonable. If, for example, a commercial tenant vacates leased property before the lease term ends (and ceases paying rent), the tenant has breached the lease. If the landlord, however, retakes control of the property and does absolutely nothing, the landlord has failed to mitigate its damages by failing to re-rent the space, and that failure to mitigate may reduce the amount of damages to which the landlord is entitled.

That’s why a landlord’s date of retaking possession can be so important in a breach-of-lease case. In this case from Brevard County, the trial court concluded that the landlord retook possession on June 6, 2014. Based upon that date, the trial court went on to decide that the landlord failed to mitigate its damages. That’s why details can matter a great deal in a commercial lease dispute. If the landlord had been able to prove that it took possession on Sept. 6 or Dec. 6 or some date substantially later than June 6, that would have meant that the extent of its failure to mitigate was less, and its entitlement to damages would have been greater. Unfortunately for the landlord in this case, the appeals court determined that “competent, substantial evidence” existed to show that the landlord took possession on June 6. That, in turn, meant that the failure-to-mitigate finding in favor of the tenant also remained unchanged.

For knowledgeable advice and skillful representation in your commercial lease dispute, contact the skilled South Florida landlord-tenant attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon. Our experienced team has been skillfully helping clients protect their business interests for many years.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you.

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A Florida Appeals Court Rules Against a Landlord’s Claim for Payment from the Court Registry in Broward County Sublease Dispute, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2018

Department Store Overcomes Landlord’s Attempt to Block Sublease of South Florida Mall Space, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, Oct. 27, 2017