For both residential and commercial renters, it can often feel like the scales of justice are perpetually tipped in the landlord’s favor. Not owning the property you use for your business can come with some disadvantages, but the vast majority of commercial landlord-tenant relationships are beneficial for both parties.
If you are a commercial renter in one of those exceptions, you might be wondering if you are allowed to withhold rent when your landlord is not treating you appropriately. Unfortunately, the answer is “no” in most cases. You might have some luck with this tactic, however, if your landlord has caused the property to be unusable.
Twenty Days’ Notice
Before you proceed on withholding rent from your commercial landlord, you should first take another look at the lease. Many leases do not explicitly state that the landlord is solely required to maintain the premises and make necessary repairs. Also, many commercial leases require a unique procedure for notifying the landlord about repairs and the potential involvement of withholding rent.
If your commercial lease does not communicate such a procedure, Florida law allows commercial tenants to withhold rent as long as a few conditions are met. These conditions are:
- The landlord has failed or refused to make necessary repairs
- Because of the landlord’s failure to maintain and repair the premises, the property has become “untenantable”
- The tenant has notified the landlord of the intention to withhold rent if repairs are not made within 20 days of the notice. Tenants have the right to withhold rent for the pay periods during which the property is unusable. Once the landlord has made the necessary repairs, the tenant must pay the full amount of the withheld rent.
This statutory procedure does not preclude the landlord from entering into a written agreement with the tenant to lengthen the time for repairs.
Termination of the Commercial Lease
There is a chance that the landlord will still not make the necessary repairs after receiving the written notice from the tenant. If the property continues to be unusable due to the inaction of a commercial landlord, the tenant is generally permitted to abandon the property. In this situation, the tenant may effectively terminate the lease and is not responsible for rent or other fees.
Before You Withhold, Speak With an Attorney
Not paying rent when you are required—even if you think you are allowed—can be detrimental to your relationship with your landlord and cause your professional reputation to be damaged. At the same time, you should not hesitate to exercise your rights under your lease and state law. Trembly Law Firm would be honored to evaluate your situation and recommend a course of action. Contact our team today to set up an initial consultation.