As with any business, there are liability issues and risks that must be managed when you’re renting out a property. Accidents and disasters will happen, and even though they are likely outside of your control, they are happening at a property that you own. This leaves you liable for injuries and damages that can occur.
Here’s what to expect in terms of liability and how to protect yourself against insurance claims, lawsuits, and small claims court.
Liability and Habitability
In the state laws that govern Florida’s rental laws, there’s an implied warranty of habitability. This means that if you don’t take care of the essential repairs that affect a property’s habitability, such as a broken water heater, mold, or a backed up sewer line, tenants in Florida can take action against you. They can withhold rent until the problem is fixed. If you try to evict them for not paying rent, their defense will be the lack of habitability at the property.
To avoid this liability issue, respond to repair requests with a sense of urgency. Conduct frequent inspections so you can be sure your property is safe, habitable, and well-maintained.
Orlando Tenant Injuries
What if a tenant gets injured at your property? What if a tenant’s guest falls down the stairs or slips on a sidewalk outside of your rental home? You may be liable, but the tenant would have to prove that your negligence led to the injury.
The burden of proof will be on the tenant to demonstrate that:
- The landlord was responsible for maintaining the part of the property where the injury occurred.
- The landlord failed to take the reasonable steps to prevent the accident.
- Fixing the problem or providing tenants with adequate warnings would not have been unreasonably difficult or expensive.
- The landlord’s negligence caused the tenant’s injury.
- The tenant was genuinely hurt.
If something does occur for which you are liable, the tenant or the tenant’s guest can bring a claim against you for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent physical disability.
This is not a situation you want to be in. Conduct a thorough inspection before tenants move in to be sure there aren’t any safety hazards in the property. Always inspect with safety in mind and encourage your tenants to communicate about any concerns they may have.
Allowing Criminal Activity
Your lease should prohibit criminal activity from taking place at your property. If you discover there are drugs or other crimes happening in the home, it’s your duty to evict your tenant and report what you know to law enforcement. If your tenant’s behavior puts others in danger and it can be proven that you knew about the danger but did nothing to stop it, you’re looking at a lot of liability.
People with Pit Bulls and Dobermans love their pets, but insurance companies don’t always feel the same love for those breeds. Dogs considered dangerous are a risk for biting neighbors and children and even maintenance workers and other people who might be in the home. Check your insurance policy before you agree to a dog breed that they may prohibit. You don’t want to find yourself facing a dog bite claim in court without an insurance policy to cover you.
These are just a few of the liabilities that can get in your way as an Orlando landlord. If you’d like to hear more about how to protect yourself and your property, please contact us at Park Avenue Property Management. We work in Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Kissimmee, Celebration, Maitland, Altamonte Springs, West Palm Beach, Tampa Bay, and throughout central Florida.