Under Florida law, a landlord has a statutory right to demand double rent from a tenant when the tenant refuses or fails to give up possession of leased premises at the end of the lease term. § 83.06(1), Florida Statutes. When a tenant holds over past the expiration of the lease, then the tenancy becomes a tenancy at sufferance and the tenant is considered a holdover tenant. However, a landlord is not automatically entitled to double rent from a holdover tenant until the landlord demands double rent from the tenant, even if the lease provides for it. If landlord does not demand upon tenant, then the tenant is only required to continue paying the original rental rate.

Failure to Vacate

These rules were illustrated in Lincoln Oldsmobile, Inc. v. Branch, 574 So.2d 1111 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990) (“Lincoln”). In Lincoln, the tenant, Bob Lincoln, Inc., failed to vacate property owned by landlord, William Branch and Roger Dean (collectively, “Branch”), after Branch refused to grant Lincoln a short lease extension to allow for construction of Lincoln’s new facility.

In response Branch, as landlord, demanded $2,000.00 per day for tenant’s holdover of the leased premises. In response, Lincoln offered by written request to pay double rent during the holdover period, but Branch again denied Lincoln’s offer and demanded $2,000.00 per day. Ultimately, Lincoln decided to holdover until completion of its new facilities. Once Lincoln’s facilities were completed, Lincoln provided a check to Branch for the holdover period at the original monthly rental rate and Branch eventually sued Lincoln for failure to pay double rent plus special damages for loss of the property’s use.

Landlord’s Options

The Lincoln Court held that when tenant holds over beyond the term of the lease, the landlord has the following options:

  1. demand double rent;
  2. demand a specific amount of continuing rent; or
  3. sue for possession of the lease property plus damages.

The Lincoln Court ruled that since Branch never formally demanded double rent that Branch was not entitled to double rent retroactively to the date when Lincoln failed to surrender the leased premises.

Take-Away

Simply stated, the obligation to pay double rent begins on the date that landlord demands double rent and, absent a demand for double rent, the tenant is a tenant at sufferance and is only liable for the original monthly rental rate. Branch’s failure to demand double rent from Lincoln was fatal to their claim for recovery of double rent going back to the date that Lincoln failed to surrender leased premises.

As this case illustrates, it is important that landlords properly protect their rights in the event of a holdover tenant. If you have any questions or need assistance, please feel free to contact me at caleb.hinton@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1125.