August 29, 2017
SEEK CLARITY BEFORE SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
Does the contract you just signed say what you think it says? A recent Florida case demonstrates parties’ conflicting interpretations over a material term.
In that case, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal considered a ninety-nine-year lease encumbering property in Broward County, Florida. The Appellees are the lessors and the Appellant assumed the lessee’s interest. The contract provided that the rental payments will “be subject to reappraisal every twenty (20) years” but that the reappraised rental payment would not be “less than rental payment for the 19th year, 39th year, and 59th year, etc.” The Appellees sought to exercise the reappraisal option in the 33rd year of the lease and demanded increased rent based thereupon. The Appellant denied the request because it insisted that the property was subject to reappraisal “only in years twenty, forty, sixty, and eighty.” The Appellees sued for breach of contract and argued “they were entitled to a rent increase because a first reappraisal was permitted at any time so long as twenty years had elapsed from the date the lease was executed (1974), and successive reappraisals were permitted so long as twenty years had elapsed since the most recent reappraisal.” The trial court ruled in favor of the Appellees and the Appellant appealed.
On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and found in favor of the Appellant. The Third District Court of Appeal found that the “contract here could not be clearer” and “reading this provision as a whole we have no difficulty concluding that it clearly and unambiguously permits reappraisal only at years twenty, forty, sixty, and eighty.” The Third District Court of Appeal also found that the Appellees’ interpretation would give them an option to reappraise when most advantageous to them so long as twenty years had elapsed since the execution of the lease. The Third District Court of Appeal stated that the court’s task is to apply the parties’ contract as written and not to rewrite it in favor of one party.
For more information about the topic of this blog post, please contact Weber Law, P.A.’s Steven D. Weber at 305-377-8788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.