Last Update: 01/05/16
Home is your sanctuary, or at least it should be, and just because you rent doesn’t mean you don’t get to relax and feel safe there. That is something that we all deserve to enjoy. That feeling of safety is something that Florida law protects, and when a landlord fails to fulfill his obligations to provide a safe environment and a tenant becomes a victim of a preventable or foreseeable crime that results in an injury, that failure gives rise to a personal injury claim of “negligent security.” Basically, negligent security is the failure of a landlord to protect and provide a safe environment by failing to do simple things like providing adequate lighting or providing adequate security measures at or near your home.
Florida landlords are held accountable to provide a safe environment under laws passed by the Florida Legislature, like the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, as well as case law precedent, both of which define Florida’s premises liability law. Tenants who are harmed by someone in the commission of a crime either in their rental home or on the premises (such as the stairwell leading to their apartment) may be able to recover damages from their landlord for claims including medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.
Crimes That No One Expected vs. Crimes That Could Be Foreseen
There are exceptions to the law holding Florida landlord’s liable to their tenants for harm and injury suffered in a crime. That is, where the crime that occurred is so shocking and unexpected that no one — tenant or landlord — would have expected it to happen. In those cases, Florida law will not hold the landlord accountable to the tenant for the tenant’s injuries and damages.
However, and this is true for most tenant crime injury cases, landlords will be held liable for what happened to the tenant if the criminal act is something that was reasonably foreseen or anticipated. Likewise, if the crime is committed in such a way that the landlord’s failure to comply with the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (like failing to change the keys on an apartment before renting it to the new tenant) contributed to the event, then the landlord will be liable for the tenant’s harm.
What Landlords Should Do to Protect Tenants
Landlords need to take reasonable action to protect their tenants from foreseeable harm from criminal activity in the area. What that action may be depends upon the particular circumstances. If there have been robberies in the dimly lit parking lot, then the landlord needs to make sure that the parking areas have good lighting that works. If there have been rapes in the area around campus, then the landlord needs to make sure that tenants have properly locking doors and windows, properly lit common walkways, etc.
Landlords leasing residences to tenants in communities with high crime rates according to police data will need to take more proactive action to protect tenants than landlords renting similar types of dwellings but which are located in low crime areas. High crime area apartment complexes may need privacy gates and security fencing with security cameras, for example, while low crime area apartment complexes may not.
In other words, what your landlord needs to do for you to provide a safe environment may be different than what your friend’s landlord does for him across town. The landlord’s security duties are tied to the specific circumstances surrounding the rental property and what reasonable actions should be taken there.
Other steps landlords should take include performing background checks on all tenants and employees and, in some instances, hiring full time or part time security.
What Should You Do?
If you or a loved one has been hurt during the commission of a crime in a rented residence, then you may be able to pursue a civil lawsuit against your landlord for “negligent security” and recover damages. Florida landlords are responsible for protecting their tenants from reasonably foreseeable criminal conduct as well as complying with safety issues delineated in the Florida Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Criminal prosecutors can be helpful to crime victims in many ways; however, they do not pursue these kinds of claims. For civil actions against a landlord, injured tenants need a Florida personal injury lawyer to help them.
A good piece of advice if you have been the victim of a crime and believe it resulted from your landlord’s negligence, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.