Landlord’s Rights and Duties

By: Ghada Skaff Posted on: Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Most commercial eviction proceedings are the result of the tenant’s failure to pay rent. Before filing suit, the landlord must give the tenant a three-day, hand-delivered, written notice that requires the tenant to pay the rent or leave the premises. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord can start eviction proceedings.

A landlord can evict a tenant for not complying with non-monetary obligations outlined in the lease agreement. Such obligations usually relate to the use of the property, maintenance of the property and modifications to the property. Most commercial leases provide the manner in which notice must be given to the tenant for breaching a non-monetary obligation. However, if there is no notice provision, then the landlord must provide written notice requiring the tenant to remedy the breach or leave the premises. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord may commence eviction proceedings.

Tenants who do not leave the property after the lease expires are called “holdover tenants.” Most commercial leases address this subject and make it expensive for tenants to remain. If the lease agreement does not contain holdover tenant provisions, Florida law allows the landlord to recover twice the monthly rent plus interest.

Tenant’s Rights and Defenses

Oftentimes, a defaulting tenant will assert that it is excused from paying rent because the landlord failed to comply with the agreement. However, the tenant must specifically dispute the amount of past due rent or claim that rent has been paid. If the tenant fails to make specific assertions regarding rent, the tenant’s defenses could be waived. If this happens, the tenant must pay all rent due or risk losing possession of the property.

Tenants commonly raise the defense of constructive eviction. This defense is based on the landlord’s failure to keep the property safe and suitable for the tenant’s use as defined by the agreement. Constructive eviction excuses the tenant from paying rent. However, to prevail on this defense, the tenant must give proper notice to the landlord of the objectionable condition and allow the landlord reasonable time to repair it. If the landlord fails to make the repairs, the tenant can leave the premises. If the tenant does not leave, however, the tenant is barred from claiming wrongful eviction.

Commercial Eviction Proceedings

Florida commercial eviction proceedings are tried in an expedited manner. The tenant must file an answer to the landlord’s eviction complaint within five days of being served. The landlord must file an answer to the tenant’s counterclaims within five days of being served. The landlord and tenant will present testimony at trial, and the court will decide the matter.