At the end of a lease landlord imposed a $4,602.28 claim on tenant’s $7,400.00 security deposit for damage to the rental unit. Tenant timely objected. Landlord did not refund the uncontested balance of the deposit. Tenant sued for the return of their deposit.
At trial the court noted that landlord failed to introduce evidence from an INDEPENDENT source for any product or service claimed. The landlord only had estimates, but no receipts for actual expenditures. The landlord had actually not performed any of the repairs or replaced any of the items claimed. The landlord admitted that all keys and fobs claimed had actually been returned by the tenants.
The trial court ordered the entire deposit refunded to the tenants, plus their costs and attorney’s fees.
The landlord appealed to the circuit court and lost again.
In determining the total amount of costs and attorneys fees due to the tenant, the court noted that although this was a County Court case seeking only $7800.00 in damages, because Defendant instigated the appeal and treated this matter without regard to the amount in controversy due to the breadth and length of the appeal, Plaintiffs cannot be penalized by this fact in seeking to recover all of the resultant fees and costs.
The Court should consider the nature of the defense, particularly whether the non-moving party went “to the mat” in the case. See Progressive, 984 So. 2d at 1032. If the defendant took positions and actions to be litigious, it cannot now be heard to complain that it “invited the moving party to dance.” See Roco Tobacco Co. v. Div. of Alcoholic Beverages, 934 So. 2d 479, 482 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004) [29 Fla. L. Weekly D1826b]. Although this case involved a seemingly small amount of damages in relation to the fee sought, the Court notes that the Defendant vigorously defended this case, instituted its own counterclaim, tried the case, and appealed the case with extremely thorough and expansive briefing. Without a doubt, Defendant went “to the mat” in this litigation, so the Court finds that Plaintiffs’ preparation was reasonable.
The case was filed on 7/21/2011 and ended 3/26/2014. There were 111 docket entries.
The court entered a judgment against the landlord for $34,220.58.
RUBIN vs. GOUDIE, County Court, 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Civil Division. Case No. 11-10381 CC 05. December 31, 2013. Honorable Gladys Perez, Judge. 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 348b. Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2104RUBI