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Self-Help Eviction By A Commercial Landlord – A Cautionary Tale

Self-Help Eviction By A Commercial Landlord – A Cautionary Tale

Self-Help Eviction By A Commercial Landlord – A Cautionary Tale

In December, 2016, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in the case of Palm Beach Florida Hotel and Office Building v. Nantucket Enterprises, Inc., 211 So. 3d 42, upheld the wrongful eviction judgement entered in favor of the tenant in that case. The tenant leased just over 20,000 square feet of space for restaurant, lounge, kitchen, ballroom, and other purposes. In renovating the leased space, the tenant failed to obtain the permits required by the City, which closed the restaurant, placing red tags on the doors, indicating that the restaurant was unsafe for occupancy. The same day, the landlord, placed locks and chains on the doors to the kitchen area, the restaurant area and the tenant’s back offices. A few days later, the landlord terminated the lease and had the police remove all of tenant’s employees from the restaurant. At that point the tenant ceased operations.

The landlord argued that the written lease contained a provision that authorized it to use self-help. However, Section 83.05(2) Florida Statutes provides that the landlord may “only” recover possession (i) when an action for possession is filed and determined by a court; (ii) when the tenant has surrendered possession; or (iii) when the tenant has abandoned the premises. These are the “only” methods by which to recover possession and none of them had occurred in this case. Accordingly the landlord was not authorized to use self-help eviction even though self-help eviction was authorized under the terms of the lease. Landlord’s termination of the lease did not serve to dispossess tenant and relieve the landlord of the obligation to institute an action for possession and obtain a final determination that it was entitled to possession. The jury awarded the tenant $8.8 million for the wrongful eviction, together with prejudgment interest from the time of the wrongful eviction.

Landlords, both commercial and residential, should not rely on outdated provisions in their leases that allow them to use self-help to remove tenants. The terms of Section 83.05(2) should be followed closely.

 

 

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