When major news stories such as the Surfside Condo collapse happen, new questions are raised about Florida premises liability. Questions such as:
What, exactly, is a Florida landlord required to disclose to renters?
What about premises liability, neighborhood crime rates, flooding, and material or latent defects of the property?
What about vacation or other short-term rentals?
Florida Specific Disclosure Obligations
Florida Statute §83.40-et. seq. controls the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants in Florida.
§83.44 creates a duty of “good faith” in the performance or enforcement of every Florida rental agreement. This may create liability whenever a landlord knows, or should know, of a premises liability. A premises liability is just a fancy way of saying risk of harm on a property.
§83.51 states that the landlord shall, at all times during the tenancy: “comply with the requirements of applicable building, housing, and health codes,” and where there are no applicable codes, a landlord must maintain the “roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads,” as well as maintain “all plumbing in reasonable working condition.”
In addition, a Florida Landlord has an affirmative obligation to disclose any residential health or environmental hazards, including but not limited to:
Specific property flooding history
A Florida landlord must also disclose if the rental property is planned for condominium conversion, is in foreclosure proceedings, is condemned, has any current housing or building code violations, or will soon be demolished. The above may not apply to commercial rentals, which have their own separate laws.
If injury later occurs because a Florida residential landlord failed to disclose the above types of issues, then they may be held legally liable (e.g. responsible) for any personal injury or other damages. And please note that a landlord may even be responsible for issues such as inadequate parking lot lighting, not disclosing recent assaults in the area, and so on.
If you’re uncertain whether there may be a liability, then you should have your case reviewed by a Florida personal injury attorney with experience in premises liability law.
Let’s turn now to what types of damages may be sought in a rental premises liability matter.
Damages for Failure to Disclose Known Issues at a Rental Property
If you rented a residential property with premises liability issues leading to an injury, then you may be able to collect personal injury damages from the landlord. Beyond the legal obligations noted above, damages may also be a matter of contract. Landlord/tenant agreements often address disclosure obligations.
If your landlord fails to abide by your contract or the law, then you may be able to seek damages, including but not limited to:
Lost personal property
Pain and suffering
Reimbursement of legal fees, or even:
The damages will depend on whether or not negligence, fraud, or another “civil tort” (e.g. legal cause of action) may be proven. Maintaining a copy of your lease, relevant pictures, medical records, and other potential evidence will be helpful in any future lawsuit. The actual amount of any settlement or court award will depend on the nature of the underlying injuries.
Another issue, especially in unwritten leases or stays of short duration, is whether a valid lease existed?
Premises Liability for Vacation Homes and Airbnb
With the growing popularity of short-term vacation rentals, such as through online websites like Airbnb or VRBO, another issue you may confront is to what extent liability may attach to a vacation property. Because of our active tourism industry, these types of issues are particularly prevalent here in Southwest Florida.
In most instances, a vacation property rental or an Airbnb rental would not create a landlord/tenant relationship. However, you would still be occupying the property as an “invitee,” which has about the same legal effect as if you were a friend invited to someone’s home.
Florida requires that homeowners exercise a reasonable degree of care before inviting individuals to their homes. They must ensure that the property is in a “reasonably safe” condition so that guests may stay and not be harmed.
In many short-term rental contracts, the online company is merely acting as an agent or “middle-person,” and is protected by both parties as part of the user agreement. Accordingly, you may not be able to successfully sue Airbnb itself for an injury at a vacation property, but you may be able to go after the actual property owner.
Although the specific landlord/tenant disclosure laws would generally not apply to staying at a motel, renting an Airbnb unit, or staying at a vacation house, there is still a general obligation to provide a “reasonably safe” property, and common law elements such as negligence, recklessness, and fraud would still apply in these instances to potentially create liability.
The most important thing you can do if you suffer a premises liability injury of any kind is to contact experienced legal counsel. Don’t delay, as the outcome of your case is often time-sensitive.
Florida Premises Liability Attorneys
The law firm of Frolich, Gordon, & Beason, P.A., emphasizes Florida personal injury law. Our firm treats every client as a unique individual, not just another file. We serve Port Charlotte, North Port, Englewood, and the surrounding areas of Southwest Florida. If you are a renter or third party injured in a premises liability case, then you should call us today at (941) 979-9010 to schedule an initial consultation, or feel free to utilize our firm contact form.
We look forward to hearing from you.