FAQ for Commercial Landlords About Eviction

FAQ – Commercial Evictions in Florida

If you are a commercial landlord or tenant, please contact the Fucillo Law Firm, P.L. regarding your landlord/tenant matter. The law in Florida regarding a commercial tenancy differs somewhat from a residential tenancy and an unwary landlord or tenant can easily be misinformed as to what procedures are correct. Please contact us at (727) 945-2862 for a free consultation.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS LANDLORDS:

My commercial tenant is more than one month past due in the payment of the rent, what should I do?

Prior to filing a suit for eviction, Florida Statutes, Chapter 83, requires that a commercial landlord serve a written three (3) day notice to the tenant demanding the tenant either pay the past due rent, or return possession of the property to the landlord. Florida Statute § 83.20(2). Sometimes a properly served three-day notice will be sufficient to prompt payment of the past due rent.

However, tenants who have not paid multiple rental periods will often ignore this notice because they perceive their landlord as someone who is unwilling to enforce the lease terms. It is usually in the landlord’s best interest to pursue the eviction process before the tenant is late in multiple rent payments.

Service of the required three-day notice may also be governed by the specific terms of the written lease agreement that was entered by the parties. Failing to serve a proper three-day notice pursuant to Florida Statutes and the terms of the lease, may result in any subsequently filed suit for eviction being dismissed. Consequently, it is important to review not only Florida Statute §83.20(2), but also the specific lease terms to avoid any unnecessary expense and delay in the eviction process.

If a tenant fails to pay the past due rent, or return possession of the property pursuant to the three-day notice, the landlord’s statutory right to file a suit for eviction is established. Once a suit for eviction is filed, the tenant has five (5) days to file a response under Florida’s summary proceedings regarding the issue of possession only.

Can I evict my commercial tenant who is current in payment of the rent, but has breached other terms of the commercial lease agreement?

The short answer is yes, but each case is different and the specific facts of the breach along with the terms of the lease agreement should be evaluated to determine if an eviction is possible. Before filing such a suit, Florida Statute § 83.20(3) requires that a landlord serve a fifteen (15) day written notice to the tenant specifying the matter that has been breached and providing an opportunity to cure the breach. If the commercial tenant fails, refuses, or only partially corrects the breach, a suit for eviction may then be possible. This area of commercial landlord/tenant law can be complex and confusing, therefore, consultation with a law firm knowledgeable of the subject is highly recommended. Please contact the Fucillo Law Firm, P.L. at (727) 945-2862 for a free consultation.

Can I change the locks of my commercial property if my tenant is delinquent in payment of the rent?

The short answer is, no. Florida law does not allow commercial or residential landlords to remove tenants through “self-help.” An eviction can only be commenced by properly serving a Three Day Notice and filing a complaint in court. By changing the locks and denying the tenant access to the property, the landlord is constructively evicting the tenant and may be subject to a claim by the tenant for wrongful eviction.

The damages in a suit for wrongful eviction can include eviction attorney’s fees, costs, and the lost profits of the tenant’s business that were caused by the constructive eviction. The potential expense to a landlord from such a lawsuit is not worth the perceived reward of being able to quickly remove a tenant who is delinquent in payment of the rent.

What damages can I recover from my commercial tenant who is delinquent in payment of the rent?

Commercial leases vary significantly and the types of damages that are recoverable depend in part on the terms in the lease agreement. Generally, commercial landlords can be awarded past due rent, court costs and possibly eviction attorney’s fees.

Unlike residential leaseholds, there is no statutory award of eviction attorney’s fees for commercial leaseholds. Yet, it is still possible that eviction attorney’s fees can be awarded if such fees are provided for in the lease agreement. In some lease agreements, a tenant’s breach may also trigger an acceleration of the entire rental period requiring the tenant to pay the total lease amount.

If only monetary damages are being sought, then summary procedure is not available and the tenant will have twenty (20) days to respond to any complaint for monetary damages.

What damages can I recover if my commercial tenant refuses to vacate after expiration of the written lease agreement?

Under Florida law, a tenant that remains in possession of the property without the landlord’s consent after the lease has terminated is considered a “holdover” tenant. Under Florida Statute § 83.06, a landlord may demand double rent from a holdover tenant, but must first serve a proper Three Day Notice demanding such damages before a suit is filed. By demanding double rent, a landlord is actually consenting to the tenant remaining in possession of the property at the double rent amount.

Contrary to what some believe, a landlord cannot demand that the tenant pay double rent and also vacate the property. Any landlord seeking such damages should first consult with an eviction eviction attorney to ensure that the notice and complaint are properly drafted.

What can I do if I discover damage to my commercial property after my tenant has vacated?

A properly drafted lease agreement should address the issue of maintenance, repair and damage to the property in sufficient detail to avoid any conflict as to which party is responsible.

If you would like legal help with a problem tenant, Fucillo Law is anxious to assist. Contact us here for a free consultation.