Evicting A Commercial Tenant

The legal process of evicting a commercial tenant can vary from state to state.  However, no matter what state the property is located in, commercial lease agreements are a critical factor in helping to determine the legal outcome.  If the tenant violates the terms of the lease agreement, the landlord has the legal right to evict the tenant.

If you have included these clauses in your lease agreement, you will be able to evict a tenant for:

  • Failure to pay rent

  • Damage to the property or possessions

  • Conducting illegal activities on the premises

  • Causing disruption to other tenants

  • Keeping pets on the premises without your permission

  • Breaching any other term of your lease agreement.

Chapter 83, Part I (Nonresidential Tenancies) contains most of the relevant Florida statutes concerning commercial evictions. In many important ways, the law favors landlords over commercial tenants compared to residential tenants in Part II of Chapter 83.

The most practically important of these laws concerns unpaid rent. The statutory scheme created by Chapter 83 guarantees a quick and efficient process for landlords to evict non-rent paying commercial tenants. If a tenant fails to timely pay rent, then a landlord is required to send a three-day notice. If the tenant fails to pay the rent within that time period, the landlord may proceed with an eviction complaint.

Florida Statues, Section 83.22 creates a special method of service of process which can be made by posting it on the premises. This prevents a commercial tenant from delaying eviction by attempting to avoid service of process. Additionally, the deadline to respond for a commercial tenant to an eviction again is materially shortened.

Section 83.232 is the linchpin of this process. It states:

(1) In an action by the landlord which includes a claim for possession of real property, the tenant shall pay into the court registry the amount alleged in the complaint as unpaid, or if such amount is contested, such amount as is determined by the court, and any rent accruing during the pendency of the action, when due, unless the tenant has interposed the defense of payment or satisfaction of the rent in the amount the complaint alleges as unpaid. Unless the tenant disputes the amount of accrued rent, the tenant must pay the amount alleged in the complaint into the court registry on or before the date on which his or her answer to the claim for possession is due. If the tenant contests the amount of accrued rent, the tenant must pay the amount determined by the court into the court registry on the day that the court makes its determination. The court may, however, extend these time periods to allow for later payment, upon good cause shown. Even though the defense of payment or satisfaction has been asserted, the court, in its discretion, may order the tenant to pay into the court registry the rent that accrues during the pendency of the action, the time of accrual being as set forth in the lease. If the landlord is in actual danger of loss of the premises or other hardship resulting from the loss of rental income from the premises, the landlord may apply to the court for disbursement of all or part of the funds so held in the court registry.

(2) If the tenant contests the amount of money to be placed into the court registry, any hearing regarding such dispute shall be limited to only the factual or legal issues concerning:

(a) Whether the tenant has been properly credited by the landlord with any and all rental payments made; and

(b) What properly constitutes rent under the provisions of the lease.

(3) The court, on its own motion, shall notify the tenant of the requirement that rent be paid into the court registry by order, which shall be issued immediately upon filing of the tenant’s initial pleading, motion, or other paper.

(4) The filing of a counterclaim for money damages does not relieve the tenant from depositing rent due into the registry of the court.

(5) Failure of the tenant to pay the rent into the court registry pursuant to court order shall be deemed an absolute waiver of the tenant’s defenses. In such case, the landlord is entitled to an immediate default for possession without further notice or hearing thereon.

Most commercial tenants will be unable to comply with Section 83.232, which will result in a landlord quickly regaining (and then re-leasing) the commercial space.

Evicting a commercial tenant is a very serious legal matter. You should never attempt to evict a commercial tenant on your own, as you could end up running afoul of the law and subjecting yourself to severe penalties. Instead, you’ll want to consult with a commercial real estate attorney to learn about the specific requirements for evicting tenants in your area.

As explained, the law is favorable to commercial landlords. It is, however, more complicated than this blog post states. Commercial landlords are well served to maintain a relationship with an experienced law firm to assist them with their best practices and eviction of problem tenants.  Woolsey Morcom can assist you in reclaiming your property in a timely manner.  Our partner Nick Morcom has experience with commercial evictions actions.  Reach out to Nick here or call our office at 904-638-4235 to schedule a consultation.

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