The Florida Landlord Residential Tenancy Act (Act) provides tenants with basic security protections. According to the Act, the landlord has an affirmative obligation to maintain the dwelling unit in a habitable condition. The doctrine of caveat emptor (a doctrine holding that purchasers buy at their own risk) no longer applies to the sale or leasing of residential property.
The Act ensures that the landlord “maintain the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, all other structural components, [and that] plumbing [is] in reasonable working condition.” The Act also requires that the landlord abides by any local building or housing codes. Florida Statute § 83.51(2)(a) requires that a landlord make reasonable provisions for locks and keys and for the safe condition of common areas. A property-owner is not liable to the tenant for the state of affairs caused by the negligence of the tenant.
The Act does not protect the following: “Transient occupancy in a hotel, condominium, motel, roominghouse, or similar public lodging, or transient occupancy in a mobile home park; Occupancy by a holder of a proprietary lease in a cooperative apartment; and Occupancy by an owner of a condominium unit.”
The Act grants remedies for the aggrieved tenant. These rights may be enforced by civil action. A right or duty enforced by civil action does not preclude criminal prosecution for an offense related to the lease or leased property. Attorneys’ fees may be awarded to the prevailing party.
Protections from Third Party Criminal Attacks
According to Florida Jurisprudence, “the landlord’s duty to reasonably provide a tenant with protection from criminal attack within the leased premises does not have to be implied from prior similar occurrences on the leased premises in order to state a negligence cause of action against the landlord for injuries suffered in a criminal attack in light of the duty imposed on the landlord by the Act to provide “locks and keys” and to maintain common areas in a ‘safe condition.’” A landlord’s violation of the act is at least evidence of negligence. If the owner of the property fails to reasonably maintain the safety of the premises, the owner may be liable for harm caused by an intruder. Additionally, the owners are liable if the type of harm suffered by the tenant was of a kind reasonably foreseeable as a result of the landlord’s negligence in not providing adequate security to prevent the unauthorized entry of the attackers.
The Act is regarded “by the legislature as so significant that a separate provision, Section 83.47, voids any provisions in a rental agreement to the extent that it ‘[p]urports to waive or preclude the rights, remedies, or requirements set forth” in the statute, or ‘[p]urports to limit or preclude any liability of the landlord to the tenant or of the tenant to the landlord, arising under law.’” This portion of the statute “setting forth the special relationship between a landlord and a tenant, may form, in and of itself, the basis of a negligent security claim against a landlord who fails in its responsibility to provide a safe living environment to its tenants.”
Case in Point
Paterson v. Deeb, in Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, is just one example of a civil action grounded in the Act. In Deeb, a woman was tragically raped on the premises of her apartment complex. The plaintiff alleged violations of duties provided by the Act. More specifically, the owner failed its statutory obligations to exercise reasonable care to correct dangerous and defective conditions of the doors, windows, and corridors of the complex.
The defendant owner argued that because there had never been a similar crime on the property, this crime was not foreseeable. The court refused this argument stating that “although under previous cases based upon the common law prior similar incidents were required to establish liability, the Residential Landlord Tenant Protection Act provided additional protection for the tenant and created, in effect, a ‘statutory warranty of habitability.’”
The owner in Deeb was liable for a criminal act that was not foreseeable because the complex breached its duty under Florida Statute § 83.51(2)(a) that require a landlord to make reasonable provision for locks and keys and for the safe condition of common areas. By not appropriately maintaining the security of the premises, the court ruled that this breach of duty was a proximate cause of the attack.
West’s F.S.A. § 83.51(West, Westlaw effect through 7/1/15 legislation)
Mansur v. Eubanks, 401 So. 2d 1328, 1329 (Fla. 1981).
West’s F.S.A. § 83.42 (West, Westlaw effect through 7/1/15 legislation)
West’s F.S.A. § 83.54 (West, Westlaw effect through 7/1/15 legislation)
West’s F.S.A. § 83.48 (West, Westlaw effect through 7/1/15 legislation)
34 Fla. Jur 2d Landlord and Tenant § 109
See Bennett v. Mattison, 382 So.2d 873 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980)
Patterson v. Deeb, 472 So. 2d 1210, 1216–1221 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1985).
Fredric S. Zinober, Litigating the Negligent Security Case: Who’s in Control Here?, 44 Stetson L. Rev. 289, 290 (2015) (quoting Ray v. Tampa Windridge Assocs., Ltd., 596 So. 2d 676, 677 (Fla. 2d Dist. Ct. App. 1991))
Fredric S. Zinober, Litigating the Negligent Security Case: Who’s in Control Here?, 44 Stetson L. Rev. 289, 290 (2015)
Fredric S. Zinober, Litigating the Negligent Security Case: Who’s in Control Here?, 44 Stetson L. Rev. 289, 295–296 (2015) (quoting Paterson v. Deeb, 472 So. 2d 1210, 1218–19 (Fla. 1st Dist. Ct. App. 1985))Protections afforded by The Florida Landlord Residential Tenancy Act