Since the housing crisis struck several years ago, many more individuals (and families) have shifted from home ownership to renting. It is therefore of growing important for all residents to understand their legal rights as they relate to their landlord, including their right to recovery when it comes to possible premises liability claims.
Florida follows an Open and Obvious Doctrine, meaning that when an injury is caused by an apparent condition, the landlord will not be held accountable for damages. However, such hazards are not absolutely barred, because landlords also have a duty to maintain their properties in a safe condition.
Landlords have the following duties:
For example, if a tenant falls and breaks his ankle on a broken stairway, the landlord will be liable if the tenant can show (1) that it was the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the stairway as a common area; (2) that the landlord knew the problem existed; (3) that the landlord failed to fix the problem within a reasonable time; (4) that the hazard resulted in a serious injury that was foreseeable; (5) that the broken stairway actually caused the injury; and (6) that the tenant was legitimately hurt.
If all of these tests are met, a tenant can recover the following damages against a landlord: medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, permanent disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, and damage to personal property, such as a broken watch or broken glasses. In the case of a spouse, a claim for loss of consortium can also be made.
You should also be aware that landlords can be held liable for injuries that occur inside a rental unit due to a landlord’s faulty repair or workmanship. In that case, the landlord may be liable for the defect, if said defect causes a serious injury to occur.
The best way for landlords to avoid potential losses from injuries related to maintenance and repair is to keep the property in good shape. Always prepare a written checklist, and go through the common areas of the property on a regular basis, as well as checking the tenant units before tenants move in. Landlords should also encourage tenants and employees to report any security or safety issues immediately. Keeping a written record of all reports, and showing when and how the problems were resolved, will help keep the building and the tenants safe.