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Landlord and tenant entered into a one year lease ending March 30, 1996.  In February, tenant indicated that he was not renewing the lease and would be moving out at the end of the lease term, and which was confirmed in a letter from landlord to tenant.  Tenant did not pay last month’s rent.   On April 1, 1996, landlord attempted to contact the tenant to recover the keys,  but was unsuccessful.  Landlord then changed the locks and observed the unit to be in filthy condition

Tenant had terminated the utility service to the unit and stated that he had moved “most”  of his belongings out except for a mattress,   a safe, a bird cage, some tools, and a Rolex watch.

On April 12, the landlord send tenant a claim on security for the unpaid March rent by certified mail.

The tenant sued the landlord for unlawful eviction for changing the locks and for the cost of the Rolex and the bed.  The landlord counterclaimed for the rent, past late fees, and $950.00 clean up costs.

The court ruled that the tenant,  by declaring that he was vacating at the end of the lease, having removed substantially all of possessions, except for apparently abandoned property, and having  shut off the utilities,  had “surrender possession”  to the landlord.   The court ruled that §83.67, “unlawful eviction”  is not applicable to a landlord who re-takes possession after “ surrender, abandonment or lawful eviction.”

The court found that the landlord had provided tenant an opportunity to recover his property from the unit,  but had left the mattress behind, and so was not entitled to money damages for it.   The court did not find it “credible”  that tenant had left a Rolex watch behind,  or that the landlord,  who had otherwise acted professionally,  would have stolen it.

The court entered judgment in favor of the landlord for the delinquent rent, late fees, and clean up costs.  The court denied landlord  additional rent beyond the lease term for “holdover”   because of the possession the tenant had left behind.

Newman v. Gray,  In the County Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Dade County, Civil Division. Case No. 96-1696 CC 21. August 13, 1996. Cecilia M. Altonaga, Judge. 4 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 271a