Negligent Security – Landlord liable regardless of terms of rental agreement

August 17, 2011

Most of us have rented an apartment at one time or another in our lives. Understandably, the focus of such agreements is upon the length of the lease, the monthly rent amount, and the required security deposit. Often hidden within the “fine print” however, are provisions which attempt to limit or altogether waive the landlord’s liability for personal injuries or property damage which may occur on the premises. They usually read as follows:

“We do not provide and have no duty to provide security services for your protection or for the protection of your property. You must look solely to the public police for such protection. We will not be liable for failure to provide security services to protect you, your family, or others, or your property from the criminal or wrongful acts of our employees, agents or others.”

Fortunately, under Florida law, such language is not worth the paper it is written on. Pursuant to Section 83.47 Florida Statutes, “a provision in a rental agreement is void and unenforceable to the extent that it purports to limit or preclude any liability of the landlord to the tenant arising under law”.

In addition, Section 83.51 Florida Statutes requires the landlord to maintain premises in accordance with applicable building, housing and health codes, which include proper maintenance of the exterior doors and windows.

The result? We all hope that misfortune does not occur while living in rental apartments. However, if a burglary occurs as a result of improperly maintained doors or windows, or if a tenant is attacked at an apartment complex where the landlord knew of prior security issues and took no remedial actions, Florida law puts the responsibility where it belongs, regardless of the fine print hidden in the rental agreement.