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How Even a Minor Error by Your Commercial Tenant in Paying into the Court Registry May Entitle You as a Landlord to an Eviction in Florida

When you are the owner of commercial rental properties, the right South Florida commercial litigation attorney can help in many different ways. One of these ways is by “spotting” all the legal issues your case presents and then identifying all your legal options, including ones that you otherwise might never have known that you had.

Take, for example, this Broward County landlord’s eviction litigation. The trial court held a hearing and determined that “(1) rent due from August 14, 2018, through August 13, 2019, was $6,695 per month; (2) rent from August 14, 2019, to August 13, 2020, was $6,895.85 per month; and (3) rent for August 2019 was $6,808.84.”

Subsequently, the landlord moved for an entry of default and an order giving it immediate possession. The landlord’s legal team recognized that the tenant timely paid only $6,695 for August 2019 and $6,695 for September 2019 and that these shortcomings entitled the landlord to a default and writ of possession.

The tenant fought back by arguing that it had paid $6,695 (the base figure for rent) before the court made its ruling setting August rent at $6,808. The tenant asserted that its payment of September rent was complicated by the fact that, during late August and early September, South Florida was being thrashed by Hurricane Irma.

The tenant quickly made additional payment, depositing into the court registry the extra $113 for August and $200 for September.

Clearly, there were many factual issues that made this case unusual. As one of the Fourth District Court of Appeal judges who heard the case noted, “the facts of this case” included a dispute over the amount of rent due, a hurricane, uncertainty whether the tenant received the rent order, the tenant’s payment of the previously owed amount, and the tenant’s payment of the additional amount within a few days. According the judge, those facts, including the tenant’s quick supplementation of its payments, was a clear situation where “equitable relief” would be appropriate. Under this standard, the tenant’s good-faith efforts at compliance and relatively minor transgressions would not be enough to trigger the harsh outcome of immediate eviction.

Equitable relief from default isn’t an option in Florida in these cases

There was, however, one not-so-small problem for the tenant. As the judge also noted, Florida law doesn’t allow for equitable relief in these kinds of cases. Previous court rulings have made it very clear that the statute, Section 83.232, does not allow judges to grant equitable relief. The law says that anytime a tenant has an obligation to pay into the court registry as part of an eviction litigation and the tenant fails to pay the full amount due or pays it late, the landlord suffers irreparable harm. Even seemingly minor or technical shortcomings entitle the landlord to an order giving it immediate possession of the property… no equitable exceptions allowed.

While this approach by the landlord might seem harsh, it may also be necessary for the well-being of the landlord’s business to go ahead with that immediate eviction. The landlord’s obligation is to do what is best for the well-being of its business, not the tenant’s. That obligation includes identifying all legally available options and selecting the one that’s best.

Whether you are a commercial tenant facing eviction or a landlord who potentially needs to remove a tenant that is holding over, it pays to know exactly what your rights and legal options are. For the useful and reliable advice, along with powerful and persuasive advocacy, that your business requires, count on the South Florida commercial litigation attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Our attorneys have many years successfully representing both landlords and tenants, and are ready to get to work for you.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.

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