When Commercial Tenants Fail to Pay Rent
As commercial landlord and tenant attorneys, we frequently have clients approach us asking about how to handle a commercial eviction proceeding for tenants who have failed to pay rent. Commercial property lawyers can be especially helpful in not only helping you draft the right commercial lease before your tenants move in so that you have adequate safeguards in place in the face of a worst-case scenario, but also in helping to advise you on what your rights are, as well as managing irresponsible tenants, if that worst-case scenario occurs.
Landlords have to be careful when it comes to evicting commercial tenants because, if it is not done in accordance with what procedures the law dictates, you can get into significant trouble. Below, we describe some steps you can take – ideally with the assistance of a commercial landlord attorney – to address the issue of tenants not paying rent:
Carefully Draft & Check Your Documents
The documents that you set up with your tenants are one of the most important aspects of your rental (or lease) agreement with them, as well as the safeguard you have to ensure that you are protected. Therefore, you not only want to invest time and resources into making sure that document says what you want and addresses issues that may come up—such as what happens to those tenants if you need to move into or sell the property—you also want to spend some time rechecking those documents and records before you take formal steps to evict these tenants. This is because, where specific terms are not spelled out in the agreement, state-mandated terms apply. While Florida law does not mandate that landlords provide tenants with any grace period within which their rent can be late (even though some states do), it is common for landlords to offer a five-to-seven-day grace period after it is due.
The same thing goes for late fees: Florida law does not attach any requirements when it comes to late fees—they must simply be reasonable—still, the landlord should include what that late fee is in the lease agreement if they want to collect it. In addition, keep in mind that a late fee is still technically a lease violation, and therefore, you have the right as a landlord to take action as long as you have those documents in place.
Contact Our Florida Commercial Landlord & Tenant Attorneys
Some landlords also find that taking a ‘soft’ approach if this is the first time that tenants are late or missed a payment by simply reaching out and speaking to them to find out what is going on. If there is no response after taking this action, and having them end their lease early is not an option for one or both parties, working with an attorney to serve a formal eviction notice may make more sense.
Regardless of where you are with the rental process, working with an experienced attorney is advisable, even if you aren’t directly managing your property yourself. We see a number of clients each year that are frustrated and feel taken advantage of by property management companies that create unfair contracts and can even financially burden the property owner with their company and contractor fees. Contact our Tampa commercial landlord & tenant lawyers at HD Law Partners—we can help prevent and address these issues.