If you manage or own a bunch of properties, it is likely that at some point you will receive a call from one of your multi-family tenants that someone busted a window or door and broke into their unit. The tenant will then request that the landlord fix their door or window or other burglary damages. What’s a landlord obligated to do in such a situation?
The answer is not so simple – and encroaches upon a gray area.
In general when a situation like this happens (an alleged crime is being reported by your tenant), ask the tenant if he/she filed a police report. If he/she says no – ask why not? If one was not filed it is suspect that some burglar really broke the door and window. Perhaps the tenant did and is making this up to have the landlord fix the problem. Under FS 83.51(4), a tenant is responsible for any damage caused by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s family, or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.
If however the tenant did file a police report, ask for a copy. If this tenant was truly a victim of a third party crime, it is quite possible the judge will allocate the repair responsibility to the landlord – despite language in the lease to the contrary. When there is a criminal act involved, it is very challenging to predict how a judge will respond and you can’t simply rely on the language in the lease.
Therefore, if a police report was generated and the tenant is asking for the door/window to be repaired, the owner should get the door/window repaired ASAP and then later on figure out who will be responsible to pay.
If the same situation occurred in a single family home or duplex and the lease allocated all repairs to the tenant, such a clause may hold up since these types of properties allow for the landlord to place greater burdens and obligations on the tenant.
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