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Where tenant’s response disputed landlord’s charge for cleaning  but  did not pay any rent into the court registry, the appellate court deemed it to be error to grant landlord a default judgment against tenant

On 9-17-10  landlord filed an eviction complaint for non-payment of rent.  On 9-22-10  defendant filed an answer and  motion to determine the rent,  disputing the landlord’s charges for pressure cleaning.  On 9-29-10  landlord filed a motion to strike on the basis that the tenant had not posted the rent claimed  into the court registry.  On 10-1-10  the court granted the motion to strike finding that the tenant’s response did not constitute a motion to determine rent  and issued an order of possession.  The tenant filed an appeal.

The appellate court found that the tenant’s motion did constitute a motion to determine the rent and thus found that the lower court’s finding that the tenant had not filed a motion to determine rent  to be erroneous.  Thus the lower court was found to have mis-applied the law in granting the landlord an automatic default where a tenant had not posted the rent or filed a rent determination hearing.

This finding suggests that upon the tenant’s filing a motion to determine rent,  that there is no obligation to post any rent ( even the undisputed portion ) until the court has conducted a rent determination hearing.

TRACEY KENDRICK, Appellant-Defendant, v. AURA M. CORSER, Appellee-Plaintiff. Circuit Court, 11th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Miami-Dade County. Case No. 10-488 AP. L.C. Case No. 10-6079 CC 26. October 31, 2011. On appeal from a final judgment rendered by the County Court for Miami-Dade County. Honorable Gladys Perez, Judge. Counsel: Jeffrey M. Hearne, Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., and Maya Thomas (certified legal intern), University of Miami School of Law Tenants’ Rights Clinic; and Charles F. Elsesser, Jr. and Purvi Shah, Florida Legal Services, Inc., adjunct professors with the Community Lawyering Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law Community Justice Project, as Rule 9.370 amici curiae, for Appellant-Defendant. Aura M. Corser, pro se Appellee-Plaintiff.

Note:  the landlord was pro se and did not  file any response to the appeal or appear at the appellate hearing.