Commercial evictions in South Florida generally fall into two categories: (1) monetary i.e. the tenant is not paying the rent; and (2) non-monetary, i.e. the tenant is paying the rent, but violating some other provision of the lease agreement. Examples of non-monetary eviction cases, include but are not limited to, the tenant is violating the zoning code, the tenant fails to secure the necessary property insurance, the tenant fails to maintain areas of the premises which it agreed to maintain pursuant to its lease agreement.
FLORIDA’S SUMMARY EVICTION PROCEDURE
In the event that the tenant fails to comply with the three-day notice, the landlord has the right to file an action for eviction. In filing the eviction action, the landlord may pursue the summary procedure set forth in the Florida Statutes. The summary procedure is an expedited procedure requiring the tenant to respond to the litigation in as little as five days or face a default i.e. loss of the opportunity to participate in the case. The summary procedure, however, does not allow the landlord to collect back rent from the payment. If the landlord is seeking back-rent, the landlord must provide the tenant with 20 days to respond to the eviction lawsuit. Of course, in cases where the tenant is capable of paying back-rent, it is possible to purse an eviction action under the summary procedure and, at the same time, purse an action for the back-rent under the traditional procedure.
LITIGATING AND DEFENDING COMMERCIAL EVICTION CASES
Oftentimes, tenants in commercial landlord cases will assert a variety of defenses including: (1) the landlord has failed to comply with its obligations under the lease agreement; (2) the landlord has failed to maintain the premises; (3) the landlord initially defaulted on the lease agreement thereby excusing the tenants performance and obligation to pay rent; (4) the landlord is guilty of “constructive eviction” because it has interfered with the tenants beneficial enjoyment of the premises. However, all tenants must “pay to play” in the landlord tenant context. Therefore, if a tenant would like to raise defenses and contest an eviction case, they must deposit all rental payments that come due under their lease agreement with the clerk of court. Absent depositing the full amount of rent due under the lease agreement, all of the tenants’ defenses to an eviction action will be deemed waived under Florida Statute §83.232.