Under Florida law, both commercial landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities. It is important to understand the legal process as it affects this type of business relationship. The rights of both parties depend largely on what is in the rental agreement.

The commercial landlord can only collect attorney’s fees as provided by law and as the commercial lease agreement specifies. Therefore, commercial rental agreements should be detailed to cover every possible scenario, and make the remedies clear. If a commercial tenant has agreed to the contract terms, they will be obligated to them, as will the landlord.

Tenant Default, Taking Possession and Recovering Damages

If the lease agreement clearly spells out what will happen in the event a tenant defaults, the landlord must follow the terms of the contract.

Typically, the landlord has these options:

1 –  Take possession of the premises, and hold the tenant responsible for unpaid rent. Once the landlord retakes possession, the property can be rented to another tenant. He/she can then pursue the delinquent tenant for any past due rent, and the rent that would have been due for the remaining contract term. Any payment made by a new tenant will not apply.

2 – Leave the tenant in the space and sue for rent as it becomes due or once the contract term is up. This option doesn’t benefit the landlord and is rarely used.

3 – Remove the tenant and be entitled to all rent due up until that time. The landlord can then waive any remaining rent due under the contract.

4 – To save time and litigation costs, many landlords prefer to work things out with the tenant. In doing so, the landlord has the potential to waive the default and change the terms of the lease. Any modifications should be clearly stated in writing.

A landlord must use legal process to evict a tenant, and collect attorney’s fees and court costs. While eviction is pending, a commercial tenant must tender unpaid rent into the court’s registry. Florida law will not allow a tenant to remain in the space during the litigation without paying rent. If the tenant disputes the amount due, the court will then determine that amount.

Understanding and complying with Florida eviction laws will help protect the landlord’s investment and limit the landlord’s losses from a defaulting tenant.

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