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Rowe v. Macaw Holdings I, LLC

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

June 6, 2018

ANTHONY THOMAS ROWE, Appellant,
v.
MACAW HOLDINGS I, LLC, a Florida Limited Liability Company, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Edward A. Garrison, Judge; L.T. Case No. 50-2016-CA-014542 (AF).

          Michael J. Pike and Daniel Lustig of Pike & Lustig, LLP, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Richard B. Warren and Michael L. Grant of Warren & Grant, P.A., Palm Beach Gardens, for appellee.

          Gross, J.

         We reverse a default final judgment of eviction for the failure of the trial court to hold the evidentiary hearing required by statute where there is a dispute regarding the amount of rent to be posted in the court registry in a commercial eviction action.

         Anthony Rowe ("Tenant") entered into a commercial lease with Macaw Holdings I, LLC ("Landlord") to rent property for the purpose of operating a gym.

         "Fixed rent" was defined in section three of the lease as "21, 500 per month, inclusive of [Initial Operating Expenses] percentage share of utilities and sales tax." Relevant to this appeal, section 11 of the lease governed partial destruction of the premises, and provided for a reduction in fixed rent proportionately to the extent to which repair operations interfered with the operation of the business:

Partial destruction of the Premises shall not render this Lease void or voidable, nor terminate it except as specifically provided in this Lease. If the Premises are partially destroyed during the Term of this Lease, Lessor shall repair them when such repairs can be made in conformity with governmental laws and regulations, within 180 days of the partial destruction. Written notice of the intention of Lessor to repair shall be given to Lessee within 60 days after any partial destruction. Fixed Rent will be reduced proportionately to the extent to which the repair operations interfere with the business conducted on the Premises by Lessee. If the repairs cannot be made within the time specified above, Lessor shall have the option to make them within a reasonable time and continue this Lease in effect with proportional rent rebate to Lessee as provided for in this Lease. If the repairs cannot be made in 180 days, and if Lessor does not elect to make them within a reasonable time, either party shall have the option to terminate this lease.

(Emphasis added).

         Roof problems materialized early in the lease. The tenant said that water damage occurred and debris from roof repairs damaged gym equipment.

         The tenant made partial payments of rent. The landlord filed a complaint for eviction and damages for nonpayment of rent. Multiple times, the tenant asked for a hearing to determine the amount of money he would be required to post in the court registry pursuant to section 83.232(2), Florida Statutes (2017), which provides:

(2) If the tenant contests the amount of money to be placed into the court registry, any hearing regarding such dispute shall be limited to only the factual or legal issues concerning:
(a) Whether the tenant has been properly credited by the landlord with any and all ...

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