Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The Florida House has thrown down the gauntlet in a dispute between owners of a Tallahassee office complex and several state agencies who bolted on the master lease.

The House, listed as an “intervenor-defendant,” has filed a demand for a jury trial in the action, lodged by Northwood Associates, owners of Tallahassee’s Northwood Centre. It had been home to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and others.

Critics called the complex a “biological hot zone” after inspectors found 10 pounds of bat feces in the ceiling above the desk of then-DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. Mold and more animal droppings were also discovered.

Gov. Rick Scott approved stopping rent payments in the 2016-17 state budget, and the state relocated some 1,500 workers. Northwood Associates filed suit. The company has denied the allegations, saying it “performed air quality testing” and contracted with “two expert consulting firms to address all issues.”

The House now wants a jury to decide if there was a “constructive eviction,” meaning that a landlord did or failed to do something, making a property “unsafe, unfit, and unsuitable for occupancy,” House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum wrote.

The court allowed the House into the case to defend the budget proviso language nixing the lease payments. But Northwood Associates’ attorney Mike Huey said another question of whether the proviso language was constitutional is a legal question for a judge, not a jury.

“We’ll wait and see how it plays out,” said Huey, with the GrayRobinson law firm’s Tallahassee office. “It’ll be an interesting case to be tried.”

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