Skip to main content

Commercial landlord changed locks and I want to sue for illegal eviction. Want access, damages & fees.

Miami, FL |

I am on an expired lease that automatically turned into a wilful m2m, two months ago. I informed LL that I had filed for CH7 bankruptcy and had to discharge 2 months worth of arrears, but that I wanted to work something out with them. Next morning they had changed the locks, and demand pay in full or engage on a payment plan. I sent them a cease and decease and they responded that they will provide access tomorrow providing I vacate the premises since I dont have a lease in place (they seem to believe that). I cannot vacate in one day, and frankly after all lost business by now, I want some leeway to find another place and regroup with all my work. I want to have some time before I grant them a voluntary surrender, and explore damages. What are my choices and how much will it cost me?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 3

Posted

(1) An attorney will have to take a look at your lease. Commercial leases can be incredibly complex. You're lease may have completely expired. Then again, certain provisions in your lease may still be enforceable. For instance, there may be something in your lease that grants the landlord a right to change the locks upon non-payment. I have seen leases that became month-to-month, BUT where certain provisions of the original lease were still in effect.

(2) Your position is not overly strong. You may have some damages, but you will have to give careful consideration to whether or not it will actually be economically worthwhile to initiate litigation. No attorney that I know would take your case on a contingency fee (hoping for a % of the damages recovered). That is too speculative. Instead, you would have to retain someone and pay hourly. Given that you are in chapter 7 and you are behind on your commercial property rent, any attorney who takes this will want a healthy retainer up front for fees plus money for costs. Just throwing number out there-- someone might take this for $2,500 retainer plus $1,000 for initial costs (filing, service, etc).

Asker

Posted

Thanks Jonathan, for your valuable advice. Regardless of what a commercial lease states however, its provisions can outrank Floridas' tenant/LL laws, including unlawful eviction and following propper eviction procedures? I would think that to the very least, the courts would grant me the right to access premises and the LL should be required to follow eviction procedures. I remember reading in the lease that a tenant that does not leave becomes a holdover tenant at double fees, and as such eviction laws still take precededent. Cab you please advice? And thanks again

Jonathan Edgar Pollard

Jonathan Edgar Pollard

Posted

Many residential landlord-tenant provisions do not apply when dealing with a commercial lease. Further, you can have contractual provisions that override the statutes in question. Again, it will likely depend on the exact terms and conditions of your lease. That said, if the landlord is denying you access and you sue, I think the court would probably grant you access. You would also expect the other side to counterclaim against you for damages/back rent.

Asker

Posted

I guess this issue of commercial self help eviction has its grey areas. I have been researching the issue for a few days now and I continue to find legal writings stating that the state of Florida does not allow commercial landlords to use this type of eviction altogether, under any circumstance. The only avenue for evicting commercial tenants accordingly, is using the judicial process. In any event, your take is surely appreciated. Thanks once again

Posted

If you filed bankruptcy tell your bankruptcy attorney what your landlord has done. It may be a violation of the automatic stay which your landlord may have to pay sanctions. Best to ask your bankruptcy attorney.

Posted

It sounds very likely that the landlord may have violated the automatic stay that you benefit from while your bankruptcy case is open. The bankruptcy court can sanction the landlord and issue an injunction to control the landlord's future conduct. You should contact a bankruptcy attorney immediately to discuss this.

Legal Disclaimer: Review of questions submitted and answers or comments thereto do not constitute a legal consultation or create an attorney-client relationship. This avvo answer is based only upon the review of the information contained in the question posed, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney who can review your entire situation before acting upon any perceived recommendations or advice.

Asker

Posted

Thank you Braford and Leonard. In regards to the violation of stay, I am in fear that I might no be protected by it as I understand that exceptions to the protection include an expired lease at time of of filing (mine expired two months prior but where negotiating a renewal on the interim). I would like to think that a month to month, or even a holdover tenant constitute an active lease. What are your thoughts? And yes, I am headed to an experienced attorney's counsel...

Landlord-tenant topics

Recommended articles about Landlord-tenant

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer