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Landlord Liability Slip-and-Fall

Private property landlords in Florida have a duty to tenants and visitors to maintain all the property’s common areas in reasonably safe condition. Failure to do so resulting in serious injuries could be grounds for a lawsuit. Miami slip-and-fall accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., recognize that while most of these claims are filed against owners or insurers of businesses, those who own private property (apartment complexes, condominiums, rental houses and more) can also be held responsible for injuries resulting from failure to fix a known, hazardous slippery walking surface.

In general, landlords can be legally liable for dangerous or unmaintained conditions about which they failed to inform tenants that aren’t glaringly obvious.

In addition to the duty to maintain common areas on the property, a landlord could be responsible for slip-and-fall dangers inside a tenant’s apartment if there were known defects in the unit that led to the danger.

Some of the ways in which landlords could be deemed liable include:

  • Failure to fix a dangerous condition promptly.
  • Carelessly addressing a dangerous condition.
  • Failure to bring a dangerous condition to the attention of a tenant.
  • Violation of safety laws (negligence per se).

Landlords are responsible to routinely inspect rental properties to ensure they are compliant with applicable health and safety violations and free of any possible hazards. Violation of statutory requirements, such as state health and safety codes, could be grounds for a finding of negligence per se, which means one is automatically considered negligent because of violating the law. This can apply to slip-and-fall cases in Miami, as well as other types of premises liability.

Landlord Obligations to Maintain Premises

Florida law requires landlords to take certain steps toward maintaining a safe, clean site for tenants and visitors.

Florida Statute 83.51 outlines a landlord’s obligation to maintain the premises, starting with the requirement to make sure to follow all relevant housing, health and building codes. Structural components must be in good repair – including floors, steps and handrails. An issue with any one of these elements could create a slip-and-fall hazard.

There is also a specific requirement to keep the common areas both safe and clean. The law specifically exempts landlords from responsibility to maintain mobile homes or any other structure that is owned by the tenant.

While comparative fault per Florida Statute 768.81 will not prohibit a plaintiff from filing a slip-and-fall injury lawsuit (but could reduce damages proportionately), Florida Statute 83.51(4) specifies that landlords will not be liable to tenants for conditions created or caused by negligent/ wrongful acts/ omissions of tenants, members of tenant’s family or other persons who are on site with tenant’s permission. So for example, if you track in rainwater from outside into the shared entrance hall of your apartment complex and slip-and-fall on the puddle you created while minutes later dashing back out to your car, you probably won’t be able to hold the landlord liable. However, each case has its own unique set of circumstances, so it’s important to consult with an attorney before making assumptions about the viability of your case.

While Florida Statute 768.0755 raised the burden of proof for plaintiffs alleging liability of a business establishment for slip-and-fall injuries (requiring evidence of business owner’s actual or constructive knowledge), private property landlords may be liable only for failure to use reasonable care.

When our slip-and-fall accident attorneys in Miami are assessing the standard of a “reasonable” property owner, we may look at:

  • Whether there was a standard procedure in place for regularly inspecting the site and the landlord has proof of it;
  • Whether the reason for the danger on the floor was legitimate and if so, could it have been made safer;
  • Whether a barrier or warning sign would have reduced the chances of an injury;
  • Whether the landlord knew about the danger, but it wasn’t obvious to the tenant/ visitor;
  • How long the dangerous condition had existed on site.

The law does not allow landlords to remain willfully ignorant of dangerous conditions on their property. They are responsible to conduct regular checks within reasonable intervals.

Defenses in Landlord Liability case

Landlords in premises liability lawsuits may have several defenses they will try to assert to avoid liability. Those may include:

  • Condition was open and obvious. People have a responsibility to avoid dangers that are open and obvious, and that they may just as easily observe as a property owner could warn of it. However, it should be noted that this provision does not negate the landlord’s responsibility to act reasonably in maintaining the site. That’s why there may still be grounds for liability, though with reduced damages for comparative fault.
  • Landlord’s actions or omissions did not violate the law. This would arise in cases where negligence per se is asserted. If landlord could show he or she did not break the law, plaintiff would then need to show negligence – i.e., duty of care, breach of duty, breach of duty caused plaintiff injury – to prevail.
  • Plaintiff or plaintiff’s guest created the hazardous situation.
  • Rental agreement contained a clause that expressly limited liability for personal injuries on site. Our law firm can challenge this claim by pointing to Florida Statute 83.47, which renders these types of rental contract clauses worthless. Specifically, the law states that if a rental agreement purports to limit any liability of the landlord to the tenant (or visa versa) arising under law, it is considered a prohibited provision.

Our injury lawyers in Miami are committed to helping you carefully assess the facts of your case to determine which strategy will be most effective. If you or someone you love has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, please contact the Miami Injury Attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A., for a free consultation by calling (305) 371-6000 or using our online contact form.

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