County Civil Court: LANDLORD/TENANT – Court Registry – Deposited funds in court registry. Landlord’s acceptance of rent payments would operate as waiver of issues raised in an eviction action based on non-payment of rent. The Florida Mobile Home Act, Florida Statutes § 723.003, requires a mobile home owner to pay into the registry of the court accrued rent in order to defend an action for rent or possession. Failure of the mobile home owner to deposit such funds into the registry of the court constitutes an absolute waiver of the mobile home owner’s defenses other than payment, and the park owner is entitled to an immediate default pursuant - - Order affirmed. Bradshaw v. Premier Management Group, LLC, No. 09-000008AP-88B (Fla. 6th Cir. App. Ct. April 22, 2010).
NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES FOR REHEARING AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
ELIZABETH ANN BRADSHAW AND
CARLOS LORENZO MEDINA,
v. Ref. No.: 09-000008AP-88B
PREMIER MANAGEMENT GROUP, LLC
d/b/a HOLLYWOOD TRAILER PARK,
THIS CAUSE is before the Court on appeal by Appellants Elizabeth Bradshaw and Carlos Medina from the Order of the County Court entered on January 16, 2009. Upon consideration of the briefs and the record and being otherwise fully advised, the Court affirms the trial court’s Order.
In August or September 2007, Appellants Elizabeth Bradshaw and Carlos Medina (collectively, “Appellants” or “Tenants”) purchased from a third party a mobile home located on the subject property owned by Appellee Premier Management Group, LLC d/b/a Hollywood Trailer Park (“Appellee” or “Park”), which required each tenant of the Park to receive approval of residency. After moving into the mobile home, Bradshaw submitted an application for residency; Medina did not fill out an application. After conducting a background and credit check on Bradshaw, the Park denied Bradshaw’s application and sent to the Appellants a 7-Day Notice of Non-Compliance advising that Bradshaw’s application for residency was denied, denying Medina residency because of his failure to apply, and demanding Tenants to vacate and remove their mobile home from the premises.
Tenants refused to vacate and thereafter tendered five checks for rent for the months of September 2007 through January 2008. The Park did not cash or deposit the checks, nor did the Park return the checks to the Tenants. At some point, Bradshaw closed the bank account from which the checks were written.
In October 2007, the Park filed an eviction action in County Court, Case No. 2007-CO 10982 (“2007 Case”), based on the 7-Day Notice of Noncompliance for non-approval as tenants. The Tenants continued to occupy the property. As required by Florida law, the Tenants deposited the monthly rental payments into the court registry; however, they did not deposit into the registry those payments secured by the initial five checks, nor did they continue to make any more rental payments to the Park. In or about May 2008, the Respondent took over management of the case and to waive the residency non-approval and any late fees; however, it demanded payment of all lot rental, water, and sewer payments due and owing. Apparently the Tenants did not accept the offer, and the Park voluntarily dismissed the case without prejudice on July 15, 2008.
On the following day, the Park issued to the Tenants a Five Day Demand Notice for payment of all rents due from September 2007 through July 2008, for a total of $3,809.69 plus late fees, payable by July 31, 2008.
On August 21, 2008, the Park filed the instant action below, Case No. 08-008464-CO040, an eviction action based on non-payment of rent and the Five Day Demand Notice. On January 12, 2009, the trial court conducted a Nonjury Trial and entered a Final Order in the Park’s favor on January 16, 2009. The court found that the Five Day Demand Notice was valid and found that the Park could not have accepted the initial checks because cashing them would have operated as a waiver of the issues in the 2007 lawsuit. See Greco v. Corn, 724 So. 2d 612, 613 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998); Gonzalez v. Archer, 718 So. 2d 889, 889-90 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998). The court further found that the Park had no legal rights to claim the monies on deposit, particularly after the dismissal of the case, or apply that amount to the overdue rents. The court ordered the disbursement of the funds held in the registry to the Tenants. However, the court deferred judgment for a period of twenty days to allow the Tenants to avoid eviction by paying all lot rental amounts due, plus any late charges, court costs, and attorney’s fees.
The Tenants submitted no payments. Subsequently, on February 24, 2009, the court entered a Default Judgment of Possession in the Park’s favor and issued a Writ of Possession. The Tenants were removed from the property.
The Tenants appeal the January 16, 2009, Order. Appellants argue that their payments into the court registry constituted “rent” that should have been deducted from the amount of rent demanded in the Five Day Notice. They argue that the failure to deduct the amount of the earlier payments rendered the Five Day Notice invalid under the Florida Mobile Home Act, section 723.003 of the Florida Statutes. In support, they quote the statutory requirement that, in order to defend an action for rent or possession, the mobile home owner must
pay into the registry of the court that portion of the accrued rent, if any, relating to the claim of material noncompliance as alleged in the complaint, or as determined by the court. . . . The failure of the mobile home owner to pay the rent, or portion thereof, into the registry of the court as required herein constitutes an absolute waiver of the mobile home owner's defenses other than payment, and the park owner is entitled to an immediate default.
§ 723.063(2), Fla. Stat. (emphasis added). Such matters of statutory construction or interpretation are a question of law subject to de novo review. Borden v. East-European Ins. Co., 921 So. 2d 587 (Fla. 2006); Gomez v. Village of Pinecrest, 17 So. 3d 322, 325 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009).
Appellants assert that the Park improperly required them to deposit these rents payments in the first action and then made a demand for the same payments in the second action filed immediately after their voluntary dismissal of the first action. Appellants also contend that the court’s ruling was “absurd” because it required the Tenants to “pay the rent a second time” after depositing the rental fees into the court registry. However, neither the Park nor the court required the deposit of these funds; rather, the deposit requirement is a statutorily imposed prerequisite to defending a rent/possession action, and the Appellants tendered the payments to the court registry in the 2007 case, where it remained until they sought and received disbursement of the funds on August 18, 2008.
In the interim between the dismissal of the first case in July 15, 2008, and the filing of the second case on August 21, 2008, the Appellants had the opportunity to seek release of the court funds, apply those released funds to the amount owed to the Landlord, and pay the remainder in order to avoid eviction. Appellants had another opportunity following the entry of the January 16, 2008, order in which the trial court deferred judgment for twenty days to allow Appellants avoid eviction by paying lot rental amounts due, plus late charges, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Rather than availing themselves of this procedure offered by the trial court, they subjected themselves to eviction during the pendency of this appeal.
Accordingly, it is
ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the trial court’s Order of January 16, 2009, is AFFIRMED.
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers, at St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, this 22nd day of April 2010.
Original order entered on April 22, 2010 by Circuit Judges Amy M. Williams, Peter Ramsberger, and Pamela A.M. Campbell.
Copies furnished to:
Donald A. Harrison, Esquire
P.O. Box 189
Riverview, FL 33568-0189
Attorney for Appellants
Mary R. Hawk, Esquire
Porges, Hamlin, Knowles & Prouty, P.A.
P.O. Box 9320
Bradenton, FL 34206-9998
Attorney for Appellee
Appellees urge that the court should apply a clearly erroneous standard to the trial court’s findings of fact that the Park’s demand for rent was proper and that the Tenants tendered no rent. Taylor v. Richards, 971 So. 2d 127 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). However, the validity of Five Day Notice is a legal issue raised by this appeal.