Disputes between landlords and tenants are far too frequent here in Florida.
However, when a landlord neglects the management, repair, and maintenance of a residential property, that negligence can lead to all kinds of accidents and injuries; fire from electrical problems, mold caused by water damage, and falls caused by broken stairs or railings are some of the more common injuries that can be caused by a landlord’s negligence.
When is a Florida landlord legally responsible for an injury to a tenant or a visitor to the property?
To legally establish a landlord’s liability for a personal injury, an injury victim must prove that:
- It was the landlord’s duty to maintain the area of the premises where the accident happened.
- The landlord did not take reasonable steps to keep the accident from happening.
- Repairing the hazardous condition – or providing a sufficient warning – would not have been unreasonable, burdensome, or expensive.
- The accident was foreseeable and a serious personal injury was the predictable consequence of the landlord’s negligence.
- The landlord’s negligence caused the tenant’s or visitor’s accident.
- The tenant or visitor was genuinely injured in the accident and incurred damages.
For example, if a tenant or a visitor falls and breaks a leg on a rickety staircase, the landlord may be held legally accountable if the tenant can prove that: the landlord was aware that the staircase needed repair; it was the landlord’s legal obligation to maintain the stairs; the landlord failed to take responsible action – for days or weeks – to make the repair; the needed repair was not burdensome or expensive; the predictable result of failing to make the repair was an injury; and the dilapidated staircase, in fact, did cause a genuine personal injury.
An injured tenant or visitor may pursue a personal injury claim against the landlord’s insurance company for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and physical suffering, disfigurement, permanent disability, and emotional distress.
A tenant can also file a claim for damage to his or her own personal property, such as an auto or a computer, that results from negligent maintenance or hazardous property conditions.
A landlord cannot be held accountable for a hazard that he or she is not aware of, and a landlord must be allowed a reasonable amount of time to make a repair – it can’t be expected instantly.
CAN A TENANT BRING A CLAIM AGAINST A PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY?
A number of Florida landlords rely on a property management company to make sure that their residential rental properties are maintained (and that rent is regularly collected).
If you are injured because of a property management company’s negligence, you can sue the company.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that you are accusing the right party and that the property management company was, in fact, accountable and negligent.
If you are injured in Central Florida because of a landlord’s negligence or because of a property management company’s negligence, obtain medical attention immediately – even if the injury seems trivial – and then consult with an experienced Tampa premises liability lawyer before you take any legal action.
In Florida, those who are injured by another person’s negligence are entitled under the law to full compensation for all medical expenses, all lost earnings, and all other damages related to the accident and injury.
HOW DOES THE LAW DEFINE NEGLIGENCE?
A personal injury lawsuit – also called a negligence lawsuit – may be filed whenever an injury victim – the “plaintiff” – has been injured because of the negligent person – the “defendant” – failed to exercise “the duty of reasonable care.”
Florida law provides that rental properties must satisfy local building codes and may not pose hazards to tenants, visitors, or the general public.
“I always sue the landlord in premises liability cases,” Tampa premises liability lawyer Jeffrey Hensley explains, “because they have the ultimate responsibility for keeping the property safe from harm.
Once I even sued a landlord for failing to keep the bushes on his property trimmed. The overgrowth was blocking the view for motorist traveling down a side street next to the property thereby contributing to an accident.”
Specifically, Florida law requires landlords and property management companies to:
- Ensure that a residential property meets all current building, housing, and health codes. This includes keeping the property and furniture free of bedbugs and mold and disclosing the existence of any lead paint or radon gas.
- Check before a tenant moves in to ensure that floors, porches, stairs, handrails, and balconies are safe and secure, slip-resistant, and capable of handling normal weight loads. Plumbing, electricity, doors, and windows must also be checked before a tenant moves in.
- Perform any needed repairs and maintenance before a tenant moves in or as soon as the need for repairs or maintenance comes to the attention of the landlord or management company.
However, even when a landlord or a property management company in Florida is negligent, you can’t sue if no injury – physical or financial – results from the negligence.
For example, you can’t sue over a leaking faucet – unless the property is flooded and your own property is damaged and/or you are injured.
Florida landlords and property management companies cannot be held accountable for injuries caused by hazards they were not aware of or not told about.
For this reason, it’s imperative to inform your landlord or property management company as soon as a repair is needed.
It’s also imperative to keep a written record of your communications with your landlord or property management company.
Otherwise, if someone is injured, a landlord or a property management company could claim they had no knowledge of any hazard, and you may not be able to prove otherwise.
CAN LANDLORDS BE SUED FOR CRIMES THAT OCCUR ON THEIR PROPERTIES?
As a general rule in Florida, landlords are not considered legally accountable for criminal acts that take place on their residential rental properties.
This is the case for tenants as well as for third parties who are injured during the commission of a crime at a residential property.
Florida law does not consider a Florida landlord liable for a criminal act that could not be predicted and was not expected.
Most negligence claims made against landlords and property management companies in Florida are considered “premises liability” claims.
Florida premises liability cases are almost always complicated legal matters that require plenty of detailed paperwork and a slip and fall lawyer with considerable experience and skill.
If you are injured by a landlord’s negligence or a property management company’s negligence in Florida, contact a slip and fall attorney right away.
You will have to document your injury, prove that it was directly caused by the negligence, and show what financial damage you’ve suffered, including medical expenses, lost earnings, and the costs of replacing damaged property.