Choosing to rent over homeownership has its advantages. Not being responsible for some of the care and maintenance is certainly one of them. What happens if the property owner disregards their legal obligations and ignores safety hazards?
Landlord’s Legal Obligations
The Florida Residential Landlord Tenant Act outlines the rights of the tenant and the property owner, and its mandates are valid even if you have no formal written lease in place.
Your landlord must comply with all housing, building, and health codes. They are responsible for maintaining the roofs, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations, and all other structural components to keep renters safe and free of harm.
Property owners also must ensure the following, unless otherwise agreed upon in the lease agreement:
- Extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, wood-destroying organisms, and bedbugs (for multi-family units)
- Changing locks and keys after each tenant
- Clean and safe common areas (for multi-family units)
- Garbage removal and outside receptacles (for multi-family units)
- Running water
- Hot and cold water
- Working HVAC
Requested repairs that affect habitability must be made to the landlord in writing. The tenant must provide the landlord access to the property, though in most situations the landlord will provide a 12-hour notice.
Renter’s Legal Rights
If you have notified your landlord of safety issues but they do not take action to correct the hazards, you have additional rights.
Florida law allows several options to tenants if their landlord falls short of their duties.
- Withhold Rent. After giving the landlord seven days’ notice, the tenant can withhold rent until the problem is repaired.
- Repair and Deduct. Tenants can make a repair and deduct the cost from the next rent payment if the landlord hasn’t acted to repair the problem within seven days after being notified.
- Report to Public Officials. Landlords can be reported to a local, state, or federal governmental agency responsible for enforcing building, housing, or health code if they are found to be in violation of housing codes.
If owner negligence contributed to an injury, you also can sue.
Seek Medical Attention
When you are injured, your priority should be to get medical attention. Not only does treatment help you to heal from your injuries, the doctor’s diagnosis and prognosis are crucial aspects of building a civil lawsuit and can have a direct impact on what compensation you are awarded. Make sure to follow the doctor’s instructions. Not doing so could hurt your case.
Suing Your Landlord
Premises liability refers to the responsibility of the owner to maintain a premise in reasonable condition. When they fail to do so, someone could be injured. These accidents might be caused by such issues as poor lighting, unstable stairs, inadequate railings, and uneven pavement. When a landlord can foresee a potential accident, yet still fails to maintain safe conditions on their rental property, they could be held negligent and liable for the injury.
A personal injury can also include damage to property, but it must involve physical harm. In Florida, a personal injury suit requires that these four criteria be met:
- Duty of Care: The responsible party held a legal duty of care to the injured party.
- Breach of Duty: The responsible party breached that duty in some form, either through negligence or intentional harm.
- Causation: This breach of duty caused an injury.
- Damages: The injury led to recoverable costs, losses, and expenses.
Timeframe to Sue
The full extent of the damage caused by an accident is not always immediately apparent. Florida law reflects this but with limitations. You must file a personal injury suit within four years of an injury. Building a strong case can hinge on thorough documentation, such as medical bills, paycheck stubs, medication costs, and other financial losses. Photos or videos of the hazard that caused the accident and witness testimony are also helpful.
Personal Injury Compensation
Florida is a comparative negligence state, which means if it is determined you are partly at fault for the accident, your compensation would be reduced accordingly.
Victims of personal injury accidents may be awarded the following compensatory damages:
While compensatory damages have no limits, Florida has placed a limit on punitive damages, which are used to punish seriously unethical or bad behavior. State law limits punitive damages to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Compassionate & Strategic Legal Representation
We know that money cannot make the pain and anguish of an injury vanish but our team can provide some peace of mind. From the discovery process to the courtroom, we are zealous advocates who care about you and your case. Our dedication to helping you get maximum compensation drives each step we take.
Contact the “Trial Lawyers Who Care” at Frolich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., for a free consultation. Call (941) 960-7225 or use our online contact form to schedule.