Commercial space is rarely “walk-in ready” for the tenant. As a result, landlords and tenants must negotiate for leasehold improvements in order for the leasing transaction to move forward. This can impact new leases, amendments or renewals of existing leases.

Below are some tips when negotiating and drafting the work letter for leasehold improvement responsibilities, originally published in the January 2019 issue of SuiteLife Magazine: Continue Reading Six Tips for Negotiating Leasehold Improvements

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal handed down a win for local governments on Wednesday when the Court reversed a previous Circuit Court injunction that barred the City of Miami from enforcing a ban on short-term rentals in residential areas of the City.

Background

In 2017, the City of Miami adopted a resolution that affirmed the City’s zoning regulations “as they pertain to short-term/vacation rentals,” and stated that neighborhoods zoned as T3 were limited to permanent residential use, which precluded rental accommodations per night, week, or anything less than one month.

Notably, the T3 zone encompassed most of the City’s single-family houses and duplexes. When residents who had been using Airbnb to rent their properties spoke against the resolution, residents were directed to state their name and address for the record, and the City Manager made the comment that the City was “now on notice” of those who spoke against the City’s code and that he would direct his staff to enforce the City code.

Continue Reading Limited Vacancy: Florida Appeals Court Rules in Favor of the City of Miami’s Airbnb Rental Ban

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently handed down a decision that may make the lives of landlords and tenants a little more difficult.

In Jahangiri v. 1830 North Bayshore, LLC, the owners of a Miami deli tried to exercise their first renewal option under a commercial lease. The tenants were not able to exercise their first renewal option because the Court ruled that the renewal provision lacked a definite price term or definite procedure to determine the price term in the future.

Background

La Bottega on the Bay, LLC, entered into a written lease for commercial property in Miami with landlord 1830 North Bayshore, LLC. The lease contained the following provision:

RENEWAL OPTIONS: Upon six months [sic] notice and provided [lessee] is not in default of any provision of this Lease, LESSOR agrees that [lessee] may renew this Lease for two five-year renewal options, each renewal at the then prevailing market rate for comparable commercial office properties.”

Throughout the initial five-year term, the tenants timely paid rent and were otherwise in compliance with the terms of the lease. Upon trying to renew the lease under the Renewal Option, the landlord refused to renew. The tenants then sued to enforce the Renewal Option.

Ruling

Continue Reading Florida Appeals Court Rules Terms in Commercial Lease Too Vague for Renewal

On December 20, 2017, I co-authored an article, Business Rent Tax Reduced Beginning January 1, 2018, that discussed the Florida Legislature’s decision to lower the Business Rent Tax (“BRT”) from 6.0 percent to 5.8 percent.

On March 23, 2018, Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature delivered another win for Florida’s business community with House Bill 7087. House Bill 7087 amends section 212.031 of the Florida Statutes to further reduce the BRT from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent beginning on January 1, 2019.

Considering the impact on occupancy costs, any reduction in the BRT is welcome and those involved in commercial leasing will want to take note of this reduction when preparing leases that commence in 2019.

As with all tax matters, please consult with your tax professional. If you have any questions regarding the Business Rent Tax reduction and its effects, please contact me at caleb.hinton@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1125.

An interesting ruling came down this week in an Airbnb case stemming from tenants illegally offering apartments for short-term rentals in violation of their lease agreements in South Florida.

Background

Bay Parc Plaza Apartments filed suit in 2017 against Airbnb with multiple claims of trespass, tortious interference with a contract, and violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Airbnb attempted to have the case dismissed based on protections under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Because the CDA protects operators of internet services from liability for content posted from third parties who use their services, Airbnb argued that short-term rental listings on their website posted by tenants within an apartment building qualified as third party content and Airbnb, therefore, is immune to suit for that content under the CDA.

Ruling

Continue Reading Does Free Speech Protect Your Right to Sublease in Florida?

Florida law currently caps taxes assessed on commercial and rental property, but that may end come January 1, 2019.

You might be thinking “why do I care because I rent my home or apartment and don’t own either commercial or rental property?” Consider this: if your landlord has to pay higher taxes, guess whose rent is going to increase to offset your landlord’s cost?

For more information, please see a recent article in the Business Observer by Kevin McQuaid, “Commercial landlords could face big tax hike.”

Summer is a busy season for moving in Florida. This time of year is a popular time for families to move because it follows the spring real estate season and because school is out, parents won’t have to deal with enrolling their children in a new school mid-year. Landlords should ensure that they are aware of and in compliance with Florida law prior to renting.

Before signing a rental agreement or lease, landlords are encouraged to seek legal counsel to ensure that their lease complies with Florida law and that they are aware of the laws governing the landlord tenant relationship.

Landlord’s Responsibilities

In Florida, landlords are responsible for maintaining the dwelling. At all times during tenancy, the landlord shall (1) comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes; (2) maintain the roofs; (3) doors; (4) floors; (5) steps; (6) porches; (7) exterior walls; (8) foundations; (9) and all other structural components in good repair. The landlord must also maintain the plumbing in reasonable working condition.

Continue Reading Florida Rentals: What is the Landlord’s Responsibility?

In most cases, agreements between landlord and tenant are memorialized in writing that provides a specific procedure for both landlord and tenant default. However, not everyone hires an attorney to draft a lease. So what happens when the tenant stops paying the landlord and there is no written lease? The following is a summary of the process for evicting a commercial tenant and recovering money damages for past due rent.

No Written Lease = Tenancy at Will

In Florida, an unwritten lease is considered a tenancy at will. If rent is paid monthly, then the tenancy at will is regarded as a monthly lease. Either party can terminate a monthly tenancy at will by giving 15 days’ notice before the end of any monthly period.

Continue Reading My Commercial Tenant Quit Paying Rent, Now What?

Box stores won a victory in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, recently. With the assistance of Henderson Franklin’s Summer Associate Kristen Schalter, we wanted to share the facts and impact of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Forbes/Cohen Fla. Props., L.P. (Fla. App., 2017) case for those involved in commercial leasing.

Background

On July 12, Sears Roebuck (“Sears”) prevailed over the City of Palm Beach Gardens (“The City”) and the owner of the Gardens Mall (“Forbes”) in a commercial sublease dispute involving a violation of the store’s substantive due process rights under the Florida and U.S. Constitutions and unconstitutional impairment of contract.

The Sublease

In 1987, Sears Roebuck entered into a thirty-year lease with Forbes. Sears desired to sublease part of its store in the mall to Dicks Sporting Goods in 2011. Forbes later sent a letter to Sears stating that Sears could not sublease to Dick’s Sporting Goods because Sears had no right to sublease, the sports store lacked signage rights, and Dick’s Sporting Goods “did not belong” at the mall.

Resolution 20-2012

Unbeknownst to Sears, Forbes requested the City enact a resolution granting mall owner (Forbes’) approval over subleases and store modifications. Forbes contributed to the drafting process. The City passed Resolution 20-2012 (“Resolution”) which contained no criteria or grounds for approving or denying of any of the listed modifications or proposed subleases and heard no testimony regarding the Resolution.

Holding

Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals ultimately agreed with Sears, finding that Resolution 20-2012 unconstitutionally impaired Sears’ right to contract with Dick’s Sporting Goods because it gave unilateral approval to the City and Forbes without specific criteria, which allowed Forbes to arbitrarily deny Sears’ sublease. Most importantly, the court stated the Resolution lacked a legitimate interest for a public purpose and no rational basis. To the court, the existing City Planned Unit Development already accomplished the public purpose of the Resolution.

Accordingly, the court held that Sears had a right to sublease to Dick’s Sporting Goods, that the City had deprived Sears of substantive due process, and awarded Sears reasonable fees and costs as the prevailing party.

Future Action

At trial, Sears conceded that the sublease to Dick’s Sporting Goods would require municipal approval through waivers because the plans for signage did not comply with the City’s zoning standards. However, Sears noted regular industry practice involved working with municipalities obtain approvals and waivers for signage. It will be interesting to observe whether or not the City grants the waivers for the signage now that it has lost to Sears at trial, especially since Sears’ lease is up in 2018.

Take-Away

Always be sure to determine if governing ordinances provide sufficient criteria for unilateral decision-making, otherwise there may be a lurking claim that the decision is arbitrary and the ordinance could be unconstitutional.

 

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lease.jpg“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” “Penny-wise, pound foolish.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” Few would doubt the universal application of these time-honored pearls of wisdom. Yet when it comes to legal documents, common sense goes by the wayside.

Contract? What Contract?

As a litigation attorney, there have been instances too numerous to count where a potential client calls me about a legal problem. When I ask to review the contract or document at issue, I’m usually met with a response that there is no document or, if there is one, it was not drafted by an attorney. The client then spends thousands of dollars in legal fees correcting a problem that should have been avoided in the first place.

Continue Reading Commercial Leasing Best Practices