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Florida Landlord Loses Lawsuit Based on Lease Language


Your English teacher in school may have taught you about the importance of proper grammar and language usage. This is true in the real world. When dealing with contracts, the language you include can make all the difference in how a case is handled.

In many cases, it all comes down to proper wording. If you plan to buy, sell or lease real estate, it’s best to always have an experienced real estate lawyer review your documents before signing. Otherwise, you may come across real estate disputes during the course of the transaction. 

While most real estate contracts don’t contain glaring mistakes, even the smallest error in drafting such a document can have substantial consequences. A recent Florida showed this when, in the case between Dezer Intracoastal Mall, LLC v. Seahorse Grill, LLC, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the tenant. The landlord, Dezer Intracoastal Mall, LLC, lost in trial court and in appeal court based on one single clause in the lease.

The main focus of this court case was the tenant’s share of “operating expenses,” a term that was defined in the lease.  Under the lease, the tenant was obligated to pay its share of operating expenses., which was set at 3% above the prior year’s operating expenses, “notwithstanding the actual amount of operating expenses otherwise allocable to the leased premises.” This was based on a rider in the lease.  What was notable was that the lease included a provision stating that if a rider conflicted with a lease provision, the rider controls.

The landlord claimed that the tenant did not pay its share of operating expenses based on the terms of the lease. The landlord then proceeded to sue the tenant for eviction. Both parties agreed that the lease was clear and unambiguous, but they apparently interpreted it in different ways.

As a result, the trial court ruled in favor of the tenant, enforcing the 3% increase in operating expenses.  The amount was to be calculated at 3% above the prior year’s expenses, as stated in the lease. The judge claimed that ruling otherwise would “completely eviscerate” the rider language.  The judge agreed that the tenant paid the amount due.

Dezer Intracoastal Mall, LLC disagreed with the ruling and proceeded to take the case to the appellate court.  The Third District Court of Appeal in the State of Florida agreed with the trial court. The appellate  court determined that the trial court correctly interpreted the lease, based on the clause “notwithstanding the actual amount of Operating Expenses otherwise allocable to the Leased Premises.”

Seek Legal Help

How a lease, contract or other real estate document is drafted can mean a big deal in the legal world. Documents with improper wording may not hold up in court.

If you are dealing with a dispute relating to real estate, Fort Lauderdale real estate lawyer Edward J. Jennings, P.A. can help. He offers many options to remedy your situation. To get started, call 954-764-4330 or fill out the online form.




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