Alice rents office space from Bob in 2020 for one year and seeks to dispute the return of the security deposit: the landlord paid contractor to paint rooms in the office. Alice seeks 100% of her deposit. Bob:

  • is thorough in the sense he documents (photographs) the walls: annotated with 3M post-its).
  • has records of payments that show electronic payments from Alice
  • and Alice agree that the amounts are not in question
  • and Alice do not Agree whether the painting should have been performed and charged to the security deposit

Alice rents from Bob in 2021 with a new, virtually identical lease. Assume Florida law does not place any requirements around non-residential deposit handling.

EVIDENCE: Bob is able to produce an unsigned copy of the missing lease as it was stored (and dated) in a cloud service such as Google Docs. The second lease is a copy of the First lease, with the dates changed. The financial records affirm that the amounts are not in dispute.

If Bob is unable to find the signed initial lease, does this somehow help Alice's claim / position? Relevant Florida Case Law is always appreciated.

  • 1
    Distilled to its essence, you are asking if a scanned copy, (vs original) of a document is admissible in Florida courts. Is that right? Whether or not Bob can find the original paper, how might that help Alice’s case? She needs something to bolster her claim, what is that something if not the lease? Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 15:18
  • @MichaelHall Thanks for posing the question: I now realize that I have miscommunicated. Said copy is unsigned, however, the cloud service provide the last time the document was modified.
    – gatorback
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 16:08
  • 1
    Got it, like Google docs version history... Good question. Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


Non-residential tenancies are subject to Fla. Stat Ch. 83 Part I. This is statutorily a tenancy at-will unless a contrary agreement is in writing signed by the lessor: the duration of the lease is yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly as determined by the periodicity of rent payments. There are various legal conditions related to rent default and causes for removing tenants, also conditions about premises that are wholly untenantable. Unlike residential leases, there are not any special statutory conditions surrounding the landlords presentation of leases.

Florida law contemplates and allows the possibility that there are no written documents, and for non-residential tenancies has very little to say about it (only pertaining to the distinction between at-will vs not at-will leases).

Therefore, the matter follows the general rules for contractual disputes: whoever makes the best case for their claims wins. If Bob has a scanned copy, that is excellent proof. If Alice alleges and proves that the scanned copy was modified, that disposes of Bob's evidence. If Alice presents a copy of the contract that says otherwise (I do mean copy), then this anomaly has to be explained. Bob can claim that they tore up Alice's original and renegotiated the deal, but he needs to prove that claim. If Alice presents the original contract, Bob's story becomes much less plausible. There are millions of variants of what might happen: the point is, there is no requirement to present the original signed document to support a claim in a contractual dispute.


An unsigned lease is evidence of what the actually signed lease said. A lease is not among the narrow class of documents like currency and live promissory notes and last wills, where a copy is not as good as the original. It isn't as good proof as the signed original, but if you have an unsigned copy, then testimony merely has to prove that the unsigned copy was ultimately signed by the parties.

An unsigned lease doesn't meet the statute of frauds, but that is remedied by part performance by the party against whom the lease will be enforced.

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