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Brannock Humphries & Berman Defeats Mandamus Bid

The Second District Court of Appeal ruled for Brannock Humphries & Berman’s client today in a commercial landlord-tenant dispute involving an office space used by a renowned cartoonist and inventor for more than 50 years.

The case turned on the meaning of the term “contested” in a Florida rent dispute statute. Although the parties are currently engaged in litigation related to the property’s lease, the landlord argued that the tenant was required to deposit rent money into the court registry, taking the position that the amount of rent in dispute was uncontested. Because the tenant had not deposited the rent by the statutory deadline, the landlord invoked a section of the statute requiring the trial court to issue an automatic order of possession. When the trial court declined to enter the order, the landlord sought mandamus relief from the appellate court.

Responding to the petition on the tenant’s behalf, Brannock Humphries & Berman explained that the landlord had misconstrued the relevant statutory language. The order of possession issues only if a tenant refuses to deposit an uncontested amount of rent. Here, though, the tenant was contesting the amount owed. The tenant had even deposited a substantial sum into the registry while the trial court continues to adjudicate the controversy. Thus, according to Brannock Humphries & Berman’s arguments, the landlord had no statutory right to evict the tenant.

The Second District sided with Brannock Humphries & Berman. The court denied the landlord’s petition, allowing the tenant to remain in the property while the litigation plays out.