Landlord Liability Slip & Fall
Most slip-and-fall lawsuits in Florida are brought against owners and insurers of businesses or public areas. Still, owners of private property – including private homes, apartments, condominiums and rental properties – may be held to similar standards as far as duty of care.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our landlord liability attorneys know that in some situations, proving liability against private property owners may be easier. That’s because Florida Statute 768.0755, the law that created more stringent standards of proof for slip-and-fall claimants, is applicable only when defendant is a business establishment. Owners of private homes may not fall into this category, though that could change if it’s shown the property owner benefit financially from the presence of the plaintiff (i.e., if a landlord-tenant relationship existed).
Florida law now requires plaintiffs to prove property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, yet failed to remedy it in a timely or adequate manner. Absent that requirement, plaintiffs need only prove the property was not kept in a reasonably safe condition for those on site (assuming they were invited to the property, and not trespassing).Landlord Duty to Prevent Slip Hazards
Slips, trips and falls can happen just about anywhere. In apartment and condominium complexes, it’s important that homeowners maintain their property in a condition that is reasonably safe for guests.
For legal purposes, guests who are invited to be on private property as a social guest are considered “invited licensees.” Those invited to conduct business (including tenants, contractors, etc.) are considered “business invitees.” In either case, landlords have a responsibility to maintain their property in reasonably safe condition.
In the 2007 Florida Supreme Court case of Tam Investment Co. v. Fieldhouse, the court noted, “As far as a business invitee (tenant of an apartment complex) is concerned, the landowner owes such tenant a duty to use reasonable care in maintaining its premises.”
Florida Statute 83.51 on landlord’s obligation to maintain premises requires property owners to adhere to all applicable building, housing and health codes in the care of the property. In situations where there might not be an applicable code, landlords are instructed maintain in good repair:
- Exterior Walls
- Other structural components
Common areas on rental properties also have to be kept in “clean and safe condition,” free of garbage and debris.
This statute covers much of what might cause a slip-and-fall accident in an apartment complex. Though sidewalks aren’t specifically mentioned, many private communities are also responsible for sidewalk maintenance too, and can be held liable if an unsafe condition caused a guest or other invitee to slip and fall.
Although the accumulation of snow and ice on walkways isn’t a great concern for those here in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral or Sarasota, other potential risks abound. Those might include:
- Landlord’s failure to fix leaky roof or gutter, creating wet condition on path or walkway;
- Risers (the height of each step) that are the wrong height or of varying heights;
- Lack of handrails or handrails that are poorly-designed or defective;
- Some foreign substance or debris on stairwells;
- Carpets or rugs that are poorly placed, worn or bunching;
- Floors in common areas are improperly cleaned or waxed too thoroughly, creating slippery conditions;
- Poor lighting in common areas, particularly in stairways;
- Sidewalks or parking lots that are damaged, cracked, prone to puddles or riddled with grease spots.
Many landlords will seek to limit liability with clauses in the rental agreement that expressly state the landlord is not liable for personal injuries that occur on the premises. Fortunately, Florida Statute 83.47, prohibited provisions in rental agreements, essentially renders such clauses worthless. The law says provisions of a rental agreement that purports to limit or preclude any liability of the landlord to the tenant arising under law is void and therefore unenforceable.Private Homeowner Liability for Slip-and-Fall
All property owners are required to maintain safe walking surfaces for those invited on site. That includes private homeowners who invite guests to their home.
Some of the more common hazardous conditions occurring in private home settings are:
- Broken or defective stairs and handrails;
- Overly-waxed floors;
- Slippery tile due to water from a nearby pool;
- Oil spots in a driveway;
- Slippery substances on exterior sidewalks.
In the event a property owner is unable to immediately remedy the danger, he or she has a duty to warn guests about it.
Some people are reticent to bring legal action against a homeowner for slip-and-fall injuries, usually because these are individuals with whom they socialize. They may even be family members. But there are two key things to keep in mind. The first is that slip-and-fall injuries can be extremely costly in terms of medical bills, time off work and chronic pain. If the property owner was negligent, you should not be responsible for resulting loses. Secondly, when you sue a homeowner for premises liability, almost always you are pursuing compensation from the homeowner’s insurance policy – not the homeowner personally.
Our experienced premises liability attorneys in Southwest Florida are knowledgeable in helping clients determine the best possible approach.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a slip-and-fall in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.