Florida Appeals Court Affirms $8.8 Million Award for Improperly Evicted Tenant
When it comes to evicting tenants in Florida, landlords must always follow the proper legal procedures. This is especially important for commercial landlords as these type of cases carry a substantial amount of liability risk. Recently, a group of Florida landlords found this out the hard way. On December 7th, 2016, the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court ruling and awarded $8.8 million in damages in a wrongful eviction claim. If you are a landlord looking to evict a commercial tenant, please do not let this happen to you. You should always work with an experienced commercial landlord rights attorney who can help guide you through the eviction process.
The Background of the Dispute
Under the terms of the lease, Nantucket Enterprises, INC, the tenant, rented more than 20,000 square feet of space at the Palm Beach Gardens Embassy Suites. Four different companies shared the responsibility as landlords for this property. Within this space, Nantucket Enterprises operated a restaurant and a catering business. In the fall of 2008, the company decided to begin large scale renovations on the kitchen space they were leasing. However, in doing so, Nantucket failed to obtain the proper permits from the city of Palm Beach Gardens. As a result, city inspectors placed red tags on the doors of the property and temporarily closed down the restaurant. In reaction to this, the landlords forcibly entered the restaurant and removed Nantucket from the property. The landlords claimed that Nantucket’s actions amounted to a breach of the terms of the lease, and therefore, an immediate eviction was justified.
Why You Should Never Do a ‘Self Help’ Eviction
Eventually, this case found its way into court. As it turns out, the court determined that Nantucket did not actually breach the lease. The landlords were simply incorrect on this claim. Additionally, and perhaps even worse, the dispute over the breach was irreverent. In Florida, landlords can not barge into a property and simply change the locks on a tenant. This is true even if the tenant does break the lease. As the court clearly articulated in this decision, there are only three legal ways to seek an eviction in Florida:
- Wait until the tenant surrenders the property;
- Wait until the tenant voluntarily abandons the lease; or
- Get a court order.
The bottom line is simple: Do not do a ‘self help’ eviction. You must always go through the proper legal protocols. If you believe you have good cause to evict a commercial tenant, please get your case to an attorney. Your attorney will be able to ensure that the eviction proceeds in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
Do You Need Legal Advice?
The West Palm Beach landlord-tenant lawyers at Pike & Lustig, LLP can help. Our team has extensive experience protecting the legal rights and business interests of commercial landlords throughout our region. If you are need of legal assistance, please give us a call today at 561-291-8298 to set up your free case evaluation.