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hamletA landlord attempted to evict a tenant who had an option to purchase the leased premises and who had made more than twelve rental payments.  Section. 83.42(2) Fla. Stat. enacted in 2014 “Exclusions”  states occupancy under a contract of sale in which the buyer has paid at least 12 months’ rent  is excluded from the landlord-tenant act.

The trial court ruled that  case law establishes that an eviction is not the appropriate remedy where the occupant of the property has equity in the property. See e.g., Ward v. Estate of Ward, 1 So. 3d 238 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009) [34 Fla. L. Weekly D28f]; Toledo v. Escamilla, 962 So.2d 1028 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2007) [32 Fla. L. Weekly D1876a]. In amending s. 83.42 Fla. Stat. in 2013, the legislature set a bright line for distinguishing tenants from buyers. See McKinney v. Dickson, 21 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 175a (Lake Co. 2013).

While the county court  may determine  whether a tenant/buyer has equity in the property,   s. 26.012(g) Fla. Stat. (2014) grants exclusive original jurisdiction to the Circuit Court on actions involving title to real property.   Therefore Plaintiffs proper cause of action was an ejectment in circuit court,   not an eviction in county court, and the case was ordered transferred to circuit court for further proceedings.

HARNER v. CARTER, County Court, 7th Judicial Circuit in and for Volusia County. October 6, 2014.  22 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 462a.

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