Landlord Liability

We all know Florida landlords are on the hook to fix those leaky pipes or the air conditioning unit that decided to quit mid-summer swelter. However, not as many people realize landlord liability may apply in a myriad of other scenarios too. Specifically, we’re talking about injuries that occur on your landlord’s property.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale premises liability attorneys know that landlord liability arises when a property owner fails to protect tenants and visitors from certain harms in certain situations. This does not mean landlords must ensure your safety at all times. However, they do have a duty to maintain the property in reasonably safe condition for those who are lawfully on site.

If you live in a condo or apartment or any other rental unit – or if you are injured while visiting one – you could hold the landlord liable for injuries in certain situations.

Some examples of this might include:

  • Dog bite injuries;
  • Injuries to children (swimming pools, playgrounds, trampolines, etc.);
  • Slip-and-fall injuries;
  • Trip-and-fall injuries;
  • Collapsing balconies/ decks;
  • Fires/ burns/ smoke inhalation;
  • Falls from windows, balconies or lanais;
  • Negligent security/ third-party attack.

For a residential landlord to be held liable for actions or omissions resulting in injury, the injured party should first consult with an injury lawyer in the Fort Lauderdale area. It may be possible to settle a claim without filing a lawsuit or enduring the hassle of a criminal trial. However, to ensure you get a fair settlement that accounts for the full extent of your injuries, you will need an injury attorney who will negotiate on your behalf.

Florida Law on Landlord Responsibilities

Many landlord liability cases are decided with careful consideration of case law. That is, courts make decisions that establish precedence for future cases that are the same or similar. However, there are also some statutory provisions found in Florida law that outline the duties of landlords relative to tenants and visitors.

F.S. 83.51 outlines landlords’ duties. Those include:

  • At all times complying with applicable building, housing and health codes;
  • Windows, doors, floors steps, roofs, porches, exterior walls, foundations and other structural components must be in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads.
  • Provide working locks and keys.
  • Ensure all screens are installed in reasonable condition and that screens are repaired at least once annually.
  • Make sure all common areas are both clean and safe.
  • Install working smoke detectors.

These provisions don’t apply to mobile homes owned by tenants, but they are applicable to those who live in condos, apartments or other rental units.

Landlords can be liable for injuries caused in these circumstances. Plaintiffs usually must be able to show that negligence was the direct cause of the injury.

For instance, if a landlord is negligent in failing to repair the handrail in the front common stairway so you decide instead to use the back stairwell, which has no defects, and you slip-and-fall in the back stairwell, the landlord’s negligence is not the cause of your injuries. Of course, there can be nuances in each situation, so it’s best to consult with an experienced Fort Lauderdale attorney before writing off your claim.

Common Landlord Lability Claims

Although each case is going to be different, we do see that some scenarios give rise to claims more frequently than others.

Some examples may include:

  • Dog bites. F.S. 767.04 establishes strict liability for dog owners, meaning the dog owners will be responsible if the dog bites another person if the individual is in a public place or lawfully in a private place. There is no need to prove the dog was dangerous or had previously bitten someone. As for landlords, the standard of proof is a bit higher. Landlords can be liable if they failed to remove dangerous dogs. That means victim must be able to show landlord knew or should have known the dog was on site and that it posed a risk to other tenants and/ or visitors. Reasonable foreseeability must be proven.
  • Inadequate Security. By statute, landlords must provide locks and keys. They may also be responsible to provide other security measures if it is reasonably foreseeable that tenants and/or lawful visitors could be subject to a third-party criminal attack if they don’t. For example, in 1981 the Florida Supreme Court allowed to stand a decision by the Third District Court of Appeals affirming an award of damages to a rape victim in Miami whose attacker gained entry to her apartment via a window. Despite the area being high-crime and the landlord advertising two on-site security guards at all times, there were in fact no security guards. That decision has since been cited in dozens of Florida landlord liability lawsuits.
  • Falls. These generally involve slip-and-fall cases where landlords failed to keep the common areas clean and in reasonably safe condition, as required by statute. However, they have also historically involved failure to ensure the structure is up to applicable building codes, as we have seen in cases where balconies and other structures have collapsed or people have fallen over too-low railings. It has also occurred in cases where children fell from windows and doors that were not properly screened. In some cases, landlords may assert a defense that plaintiff was intoxicated. However, Florida’s comparative fault law, F.S. 768.81, will not prohibit a claim for this reason. One may, however, see damages proportionately reduced.

If you are injured on private rental property, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale attorney to learn more about your legal rights.

Contact the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.

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