Evicting a Commercial Tenant in Florida

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What Is a Commercial Tenant?

Commercial tenants are businesses that do not own their store or office space. In the United States, commercial zones are limited compared to the surrounding residential area, and zoning laws are strictly enforced. You generally cannot set up a small shop in front of your house, as you can in many other countries. Commercial property is scarce, and those that own it are powerful and few.  As a result, many businesses rent their property from a commercial landlord.

Private residents are afforded statutory protection for a livable space, and there are limitations as to how and when a tenant can be evicted. However, businesses are deemed to be savvy economic players, and thus able to negotiate contracts and enter into complex agreements. The law does not want to restrict the rights of businesses to negotiate their own terms. The result is that commercial tenants, unlike residential tenants, often have to negotiate for the rights that they want. 

Why Would a Commercial Tenant Be Evicted?

Evictions usually occur because the business can’t pay rent. This inability to pay rent may be voluntary, in protest to the landlord’s alleged breach of contract, or involuntary, as a result of business losses or bankruptcy. Evictions can also occur because the landlord gets a much better offer from a prospective tenant. The main issue is whether or not the rental agreement has been breached.

In Florida, it is important to have a commercial lease that covers all foreseeable circumstances. The business may have to pay the rent even if the building is damaged by fire or flood. Tenants may have the responsibility to maintain the property. Tenants may sign away their right to sue the landlord. Landlords can accept partial rent and still evict.

On the other hand, Florida allows businesses to draft their own rights into the contract. Businesses can ask for the right to sub-lease to acceptable tenants. They can demand security services, landscape services, and janitorial services. Operating expenses such as common area maintenance should also be addressed.

Tenants can also be evicted for staying longer than a lease term allows. Such tenants are known as holdover tenants. For instance, if the lease only gives tenancy for a year and the tenant is still on the property after a year has expired, the landlord has the right to evict the tenant. If the lease calls for it, the landlord can also demand double rent from a holdover tenant.

What Is the Eviction Process for Commercial Tenants In Florida?

If the commercial tenant fails to pay rent in Florida, landlords are required to give the tenant at least three days notice before beginning eviction proceedings against the tenant. If the tenant is being evicted for other reasons, a fifteen day notice is typically required.

After the notice period is over, the landlord is permitted to file an unlawful detainer complaint with a local state court. The complaint must also be served to the tenant. The tenant has five days to respond to the complaint or face a default judgment (i.e. the tenant automatically loses). If the tenant files a counterclaim, the landlord has five days to respond to the tenant’s claims.

After a few weeks, the parties will convene in court to settle the matter. Although a jury trial is optional, most eviction cases are decided by judges.

Should I Consult a Lawyer about an Eviction?

Tenancy law can be very demanding and stressful. A Florida real estate lawyer can review the terms of a lease and help you understand your duties and your rights. An experienced attorney can also represent you in court.

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Last Modified: 08-26-2014 03:04 PM PDT

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