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17 Jun 2015

State Drops Trespass Charge Against Landlord

0 Comment

Hector Long (not his real name) was arrested on 3/6/15 by Fort Pierce Police. What makes this
arrest unusual is that Long is the owner of a “motel”. He was arrested for trespass when he entered
the room of a tenant.

Initially, Long thought that he could “do-it-yourself”. He was thinking that the criminal courts were
just like a do-it-yourself project from Home Depot. After getting nowhere with State prosecutors,
he finally retained Jeffrey H. Garland on 5/28/15.

Attorney Garland realized that Long had allowed his State “transient occupancy” license to lapse.
Although the facility was still zoned as a motel, still licensed by the City of Fort Pierce as a motel,
and still named a motel, it technically was not a motel due to the lapse of the transient occupancy
license. A transient occupancy license allows a motel owner to put a person out when they fail to
pay for lodging. The motel owner does not have to comply with usual eviction proceedings.

Fortunately, Fort Pierce Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Garland was able to determine that the persons renting the room gave verbal notice on 3/2/15 that they were leaving. There was an independent witness to the verbal notice. Three days later, Long entered the room in the belief that the lodgees had left. His superficial examination of the room verified that no one was present.

The following day, on 3/6/15, Long re-entered the room in order to prepare it to be relet. The lodgee
was hiding in the bathroom and called police. Fort Pierce police officers arrested Long for trespass.
They were not interested in Long’s explanation.

Upon making his appearance, Attorney Garland listed the witness and advised the State of the
circumstances, to-wit: that the owner of property was being charged with “trespass” on his own
property after the lodgee had given notice of intent to vacate the premises. The State promptly
dropped all charges.

Comment

Many Florida municipalities and counties charge a transient occupancy tax which is quite hefty. This
tax is assessed only against motels and hotels which offer transient occupancy. The motels and
hotels do not need to go through eviction proceedings for non-paying customers when they offer
transient occupancy lodging. Proprietors of such businesses need to balance the benefits of being
able to “put out” customers who do not pay without having to comply with eviction requirements.
The cost of transient occupancy lodging is general higher than other lodging because of the
requirement to pay the hefty tax.

Each city or county assessing a transient occupancy tax will have special ordinances describing the
scope and application of the tax. It would be advisable for landlords and motel owners to familiarize
themselves with both the applicability of the tax and the benefits of being able to “put out” a nonpaying
customer.

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