Lease Disputes

When is a Commercial Lease Binding?

Commercial and residential leases have major differences, one of which is Florida's consumer protection laws. Privacy laws, security deposits and the same uniformity of other tenants' leases are also not necessarily connected to a commercial lease. There are many reasons why comprehensive review by a Fort Lauderdale lease dispute attorney would be ideal before signing either type of agreement. On top of the exorbitant amount of trouble that it would take to debate the terms after the lease is signed, the legally binding agreement could come with a hefty price tag to modify or terminate.

In addition to the state Supreme Court restricting legal document drafts from people who don't have a professional legal background, the majority of printed leases are drafted by lawyers and are designed to protect the client's rights. If the contract is drawn up by the lessor, it will be to the lessor's advantage. The same can be said for the lessee.

'Exchange of consideration'

In order for a commercial lease to be binding, the Florida Bar states that there must be an "exchange of consideration," which is when both parties agree to do business with the understanding that there will be goods, services or money exchanged. Minors and those involved in illegal or "impossible" acts cannot be legally bound by a contract. If a minor wants to be connected to a commercial lease, someone of legal age (18 or older) must sign on their behalf and represent them.

Exceptions to the rule

While most signed leases provide three days for a "cooling-off period" before the terms become legally binding, there are exceptions:

  • Business days: For leases with the legal right of rescission, the three-day wait includes all business days and Saturdays only. For example, if a contract is signed on the Friday before Labor Day, the third day would be the end of the day on Tuesday.
  • Mortgages: Mortgage loans secured by liens on commercial real estate may have a three-day waiting period. For homeowners who are renting out their property, acting as landlords, or have sections of the home being used as a self-employed facility, the waiting period may vary. Speak with a lease dispute attorney in Hollywood about how the home is used to narrow down whether the lease would be considered commercial or a personal home loan. The agreement's timeline may be affected by this, especially considering new homeowners do not have a right to cancel a loan once the legal documents are signed. The way the home is used will also affect how taxes are filed, so the wording in the commercial (or residential) lease will matter come April, too.
  • Oral agreements: While this type of agreement is much more difficult to prove in a court of law and usually involves a lot of "he said, she said," it can be a binding, legally enforceable contract if one party takes on duties or liabilities with the understanding of being given a good or service in exchange for the first party's duties.

Those who wish to execute a lease with minimum headaches should contact an a Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale law firm that specializes in lease agreements. Spending a little up front could prevent a small fortune in legal fees later.

Construction Law

Expired contractor license penalties

If a contractor's license lapses and no contracting work is being performed by the unlicensed contractor, there's no problem. However, if a person chooses to act in the capacity of a contractor without being licensed to do so, the penalties may be severe. Those penalties are covered in Florida Statute 489.127.

Acting as a contractor without a license is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment up to one year, or 12 months of probation and a fine of up to $1,000. If an unlicensed person is convicted of that misdemeanor and he or she continues to act as a contractor in a construction project, it's a third-degree felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

If probable cause indicates that unlicensed contracting work is taking place on a construction project which requires a current, valid certification or registration, a stop-work order may be issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) requiring the project to immediately cease. In addition, an administrative penalty of up to $5,000 per incident could be imposed, along with civil penalties of anywhere from $500 to $5,000.

State penalties are not the only penalties that may be assessed. Each county or city also could issue citations against unlicensed contractors and impose penalties of up to $2,000. These penalties can add up, considering that Florida statutes provide that each day a willful, knowing violation continues, a separate offense occurs.

Other consequences of contracting without a license may include:

  • inability to acquire liability or worker's compensation insurance.
  • inability to enforce a contract for work performed without a valid license.
  • inability to enforce lien rights.

The criminal and civil penalties for contracting without a license are severe, but it is important to remember that license requirements are in place to protect the contractor as well as the contractor's customers. A person who has not obtained the required license for his or her profession may not have the requisite education or skill set to safely complete the tasks associated with their profession. Licensing statutes and ordinances make it more likely that aspiring contractors will obtain the education and skills needed to be safe on the job site.

Another consequence of unlicensed contracting is that – although a person may have the skill set to complete a certain contracting project without a license – he or she could be exploited by those who are well aware that an unlicensed contractor will not have any legal way to enforce payment for work performed. Some unlicensed workers toil on projects after normal work hours and on weekends for promises of payment that ultimately do not materialize.

License requirements are designed to protect individuals, and the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood communities as a whole. If you're cited for contracting without a license, seek immediate representation from a qualified construction attorney. There are defenses and mitigating factors which may assist the you in resolving the matter.