A commercial landlord should NOT impose any self-help techniques when it comes to evicting a tenant. This means a landlord should not padlock the tenant’s lease space as a mechanism to prevent the tenant from occupying the leased space. The recent decision in Palm Beach Florida Hotel and Office Building Limited Partnership v. Nantucket Enterprises, Inc., 41 Fla. L. Weekly D2719a (Fla. 4th DCA 2016) demonstrates the reason why.
In this case, a hotel owner leased 20,281 square feet to a tenant including a restaurant, an atrium, a ballroom, and boardrooms. As the tenant began renovating the restaurant, the governing building department red-tagged the work because the right building permits were not procured. This meant that construction could not proceed and the restaurant could not be utilized. Once this happened, the landlord placed chains and locks on the doors of the restaurant (and other areas) and had police escort the tenant from the restaurant.
The tenant sued the landlord for wrongful eviction. Guess what? The tenant prevailed because a landlord is NOT entitled to use self-help techniques to evict a tenant. Placing a chain and locks on portions of tenant’s space and escorting the tenant from the property was a self-help technique. See Palm Beach Florida Hotel and Office Building Limited Partnership, supra, (“[A] landlord may obtain possession of its leased premises only under the following conditions: (1) by court order granting a landlord possession; (2) when the tenant surrenders the premises to the landlord; or (3) when the tenant abandons the leasehold….These are the “only” methods of recovering possession and it is undisputed that none of these methods occurred in this case.”).
Based on the landlord’s improper self-help eviction techniques, the tenant was awarded $8.8 Million in wrongful eviction damages. That is a huge number. This could have been avoided had the landlord properly evicted the tenant versus implementing self-help techniques to facilitate the eviction. Wrongful eviction is a No-No!!
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