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Black’s law dictionary defines a “tort” as denoting a wrong or wrongful act, for which an action will lie. When can a landlord’s failure to perform repairs become a tort ?

 In  the case of  FISHER  vs.  PEARSON,  [ Circuit Court, 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County. Case No. 06-003536 CACE (04). October 27, 2008,  16 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 426a],  the tenant moved into an apartment September 1, 2003.   There were no apparent defects. On the morning of February 5, 2004, the tenant noticed a leak in the living room ceiling.  The tenant notified the  landlord  of the leak.   Within a few minutes of notifying the  landlord  of the leak the ceiling collapsed onto the tenant.   The tenant sued the  landlord  for the injuries.  The court granted summary judgment in favor of the landlord as the landlord had not been notified of the condition in time to remedy it.

The court stated:  A Defendant landlord owes no duty or obligation to a tenant  unless or until the landlord  is placed on notice of the defect or dangerous condition.

The owner of a residential dwelling unit, who leases it to a tenant  for residential purposes, has a duty to reasonably inspect the premises before allowing the tenant to take possession, and to make the repairs necessary to transfer a reasonably safe dwelling unit to the tenant unless defects are waived by the tenant. This duty may be modified by agreement of the parties. After the tenant takes possession, the landlord has a continuing duty to exercise reasonable care to repair dangerous defective conditions upon notice of their existence by the tenant unless waived by the tenant. . This latter duty corresponds to the statutory warranty of habitability. [emphasis added] Mansur v. Eubanks, 401 So.2d 1328 at 1329 (Fla. 1981) Florida Supreme Court.

Before a landlord  can be held liable  for a breach of this duty, however, it is necessary to prove that the landlord had actual or constructive knowledge or notice of the existence of the dangerous condition for a time sufficient for it to be remedied.” [emphasis added] Firth v. Marhoefer, 406 So.2d 521, 522 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981).

Actual or constructive notice is a key element when determining liability in a negligence matter. Siegel v. Deerwood Place Corp., 701 So.2d 1190 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1997); Kessler v. Gumenick, 358 So.2d 1167 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1978); Padilla v. Tulso Enterprises, Inc., 307 So.2d 884 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1974); Marlo Investments, Inc. v. Verne, 227 So.2d 58 (Fla. 4th DCA 1969).

Thus, the landlord is obligated to inspect the premises and make necessary repairs prior to allowing the tenant to take possession. After the tenant takes possession, the landlord continues to be responsible to repair dangerous, defective conditions, upon notice by the tenant.

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