What Constitutes Constructive Eviction From a Florida Commercial Property?
If you are a commercial landlord, it is likely that you have had to evict a tenant from your properties before; however, you may not recognize that even though an actual eviction has not occurred, there are times when your actions (or inactions) as a commercial landlord can constitute a “constructive eviction.”
Under Florida law, constructive eviction is generally defined as a disturbance to the tenant by a landlord (or landlord’s agent) that substantially interferes with the tenant’s possession of the premises and either renders the premises unfit for the purpose for which the tenant entered into the lease or deprives the tenant of the beneficial enjoyment of the property.
For instance, let’s suppose that Susan, a licensed psychologist, leases a unit in an office building so that she can operate a private practice for her clients. After running her practice in the building for several months, the landlord decides to lease some of the remaining space to a music shop that offers drum lessons to students. Susan complains that the loud noise from the drums is interfering with her ability to run her business and attract and maintain clients. She decides to stop paying rent, asserting that she has been constructively evicted from her office space.
The Tenant Must Prove the Elements of a Constructive Eviction
Although constructive eviction is recognized in most states, including Florida, as valid grounds for terminating a lease, the commercial tenant must be able to prove the elements below to establish a valid constructive eviction claim against the landlord:
- Breach of Duty. The landlord interfered with the tenant’s use of the property for the purposes for which it was leased or deprived the tenant of his/her right of quite enjoyment.
- The tenant must notify the landlord of the breach and give the landlord a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem.
- Vacate/Surrender Possession. The tenant must actually vacate the property within a reasonable period of time after the problem surfaces.
In the scenario described above, Susan will not be able to establish that she was constructively evicted unless she is able to prove all of the required elements. For instance, if Susan did not actually advise the landlord of the problem and/or give the landlord a reasonable period of time to remedy the situation she will not be able to establish her claim. Similarly, if she did not actually vacate the property, her claim for constructive eviction will be invalid.
Protecting Yourself From Constructive Eviction Claims
Depending upon the circumstances of the case, if a tenant is able to establish constructive eviction, you may not only lose rental payments, you may also have to pay damages to the tenant for lost business profits. Given what is at stake, it is imperative that commercial landlords take proactive measures to protect themselves against these types of claims. When a tenant complains of a problem, you need to keep a complete record all communications with the tenant and document any repairs that you have made. You should also seek assistance from skilled Pensacola commercial real estate attorneys who are experienced in handling commercial landlord-tenant matters.
The real estate team at McDonald Fleming Moorhead law firm can provide the guidance and legal advice needed to properly resolve all of your commercial landlord-tenant disputes. Our attorneys will carefully explain your options and help you take the right steps to protect yourself against constructive eviction claims and other legal actions that may be brought by a tenant.