Florida Statute s. 83.232 refers to rent a commercial tenant is required to pay into the court’s registry when the landlord files an action for eviction. For the benefit of a tenant, subsection (2) of this statute provides:
(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.
How does this subsection come into play? The recent case of Rowe v. Macaw Holdings I, LLC, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D1255a (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) provides a good example of a tenant’s entitlement to an evidentiary hearing afforded by this statute.
In this case, the commercial lease provided that the tenant was obligated to pay a fixed monthly rental rate. However, upon partial destruction of the premises, the tenant’s, “Fixed Rent will be reduced proportionately to the extent to which the repair operations interfere with the business conducted on the [leased] Presmises by Lessee.” Roof problems and water intrusion damaged the tenant’s premises and the tenant unilaterally made partial payments under the lease. The landlord did not approve the partial payments and filed an eviction lawsuit. The tenant moved for a hearing under Florida Statute s. 83.232(2) to determine the amount of rent to be paid into the court’s registry. The trial court denied the tenant’s requests and demanded the tenant pay the fixed monthly rent into the court’s registry. The tenant did not and the the trial court ruled in favor of the landlord on its eviction.
However (and this is an important however), the appellate court reversed judgment in favor of the landlord requiring the trial court to grant the tenant the evidentiary hearing under Florida Statute s. 83.232(2). The trial court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing to preliminarily determine if the tenant was entitled to a rent reduction, if any, due to the partial destruction of the premises from the roof leak in accordance with the lease.
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