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When is a duck not a duck? Employees try to push a scaled replica of the rubber duck by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman away from lakeside at a park in Shenyang

When the judge says so !

The Florida statute of frauds provides that a lease for more than one year must be in writing and the landlord’s signature must by witnessed  by two witnesses.  What then is the status of the lease when it is only signed by the tenant and not the landlord,  or if it is signed by the landlord but there aren’t any witness signatures ?

In University Square v. Congress Auto Center, 9 Fla L. Weekly Supp. 753a (Palm Beach Circuit Court 2002),  the tenant saw a for rent sign with a realtor on it.  Tenant called the realtor, and ultimately was given a lease which he signed and returned along with a check for first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.  The landlord cashed the check and the realtor gave the tenant the keys to the premises.   Tenant purchased fixtures for the premises and moved his business into the leased premises two months later.

The next week, the tenant received a letter from landlord’s attorney stating that the landlord had not signed the lease,  so they were under an oral month to month tenancy, which they were hereby terminating.   When the tenant refused to vacate,  landlord sued for eviction. Tenant posted the rent in the court registry.

The court cited the Florida Supreme Court in Demps v. Hogan 48 So. 998 (1909) which ruled that where a seller on an oral agreement for the sale of land puts the buyer in possession and the buyer has performed all of his obligations under the agreement,  the court will enforce the agreement  despite the statute of frauds.  The court in University Square stated to apply the statute of frauds against a tenant  who had moved in and paid the rent for three months,  would itself work a fraud against the tenant.  So the unsigned lease was enforced.

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