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Petitioner had been living in a house for over five years under a lease-option  contract which had expired four years ago under which he  claimed to have made a $6000 deposit toward the purchase as well as many improvements.  Respondent filed an eviction for non-payment of rent, to which petitioner responded with a motion to determine rent and a motion to dismiss based on a claim of ownership under the lease option..  The county court granted the eviction without hearing.  Petitioners appealed (which was treated as a petition for a writ of certiori,  as non-final orders from County Court are not directly appealable to Circuit Court).

The Circuit Court reversed, citing Florida Statutes 83.42 Exclusions from application of part. — This part does not apply to:

(2) Occupancy under a contract of sale of a dwelling unit or the property of which it is a part in which the buyer has paid at least 12 months’ rent or in which the buyer has paid at least 1 month’s rent and a deposit of at least 5 percent of the purchase price of the property.

Where a tenant makes a claim of ownership in a landlord’s action for possession, a court errs by ordering an eviction or by ordering rent to be deposited with the court registry without holding a hearing on the tenant’s assertion.  Even though the lease option had expired on its face in 2010,  the court ruled that real estate contracts, under certain circumstances, may be subject to oral modification or extension, as was alleged here.  Therefore the County Court erred by not holding an evidentiary hearing on the claim of ownership.

MORGAN v. HEWITT,  Circuit Court, 9th Judicial Circuit (Appellate) in and for Orange County.  Appeal from the County Court for Orange County. August 20, 2015.  Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2307MORG