13 Apr New Florida law offers multi-family residential properties strong premises liability defense
By Anita Byer, Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk
Florida’s recently enacted tort reform bill includes a new law to help multi-family residential properties defend against negligent security premises liability claims. It applies to residential properties with five or more dwelling units on a particular parcel, including condominiums, apartments and townhouses. In exchange for implementing various security measures, property owners or principal operators can enjoy a presumption against premises liability for criminal acts committed on the property by third parties who are not employees or agents of the owner or operator. This new law does not require property owners and operators to implement security measures, but it rewards those who do.
To take advantage of the statute’s presumption against liability for criminal acts committed by third parties on the premises, the property’s owner or principal operator must substantially implement the following security measures on the property.
- A security camera system at points of entry and exit that records (and maintains for at least 30 days) video footage to assist in offender identification and apprehension.
- A lighted parking lot illuminated at an intensity of at least an average of 1.8 foot-candles per square foot at 18 inches above the surface from dusk to dawn or controlled by photocell or similar device that provides light from dusk to dawn.
- Lighting in walkways, laundry rooms, common areas and porches, illuminated from dusk to dawn or controlled by photocell or similar device that provides light from dusk to dawn.
- At least a 1-inch deadbolt in each dwelling unit door.
- A locking device on each window, each exterior sliding door, and any other doors not used for community purposes.
- Locked gates with key or fob access along pool fence areas.
- A peephole or door viewer on each dwelling unit door that does not include a window or that does not have a window next to the door.
There are two more things that owners or principal operators must do by January 1, 2025 to enjoy the presumption against liability.
- Have a “crime prevention through environmental design” assessment performed by a law enforcement agency or qualified practitioner. “Crime prevention through environmental design” involves the use of environmental design concepts (natural access control, natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement) to reduce criminal opportunity and foster positive social interaction among the legitimate users of that setting. The assessment cannot be more than three years old.
- Provide proper crime deterrence and safety training to current employees. Employees hired after January 1, 2025 must be trained within 60 days of being hired. Employees must be trained and familiar with the required security principles, devices, measures and standards. The Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute is required to develop a proposed curriculum or best practices for owners and principal operators to implement such training.
Every owner and principal operator of qualifying multi-family residential property should seriously consider taking advantage of this new law. The presumption against negligent security premises liability afforded by the law can prove invaluable, particularly to those with a history of crime on the property. Implementing the required security measures will be much cheaper than being named a defendant in premises liability lawsuit.