On March 24, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 837 into law. This bill, otherwise known as the Tort Reform Act, is expected to have significant impacts on personal injury, wrongful death, and insurer bad faith litigation in the state of Florida. One of the most significant changes made by HB 837 is the creation of a new presumption against liability for owners and operators of multifamily residential property in cases based on criminal acts upon the premises by third parties. This presumption applies to such owners who implement certain security features.
Impact on the Multi-Family Industry:
The creation of this new presumption is expected to have a significant impact on the multi-family industry. In the past, owners and operators of multifamily properties have been held liable for injuries caused by criminal acts on the premises, even if they had implemented reasonable security measures. This new presumption will make it much more difficult for plaintiffs to recover damages in these types of cases. For property owners to assume this presumption against negligence, the bill provides three requirements that a property owner must show prior to an incident.
The requirements are:
- A list of physical property safety measures to be taken on the property.
- A crime prevention analysis
- Training of their employees on crime prevention.
The physical property safety measures would include:
- Security cameras with retrievable footage at points of entry and exits.
- One-inch deadbolt in each dwelling unit door.
- Locking device on each window, exterior sliding door, and any other door not used for community purposes.
- 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.
- Lighting in parking lots, walkways, laundry rooms, and common areas.
- A locked pool gate with only key or fob access.
For the crime prevention analysis, the must have a “crime prevention through environmental design,” completed by January 1, 2025. This must be completed by a law enforcement agency or a certified Florida Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Practitioner.
The third requirement, which also must be completed by January 1, 2025, is that the property owner must provide crime deterrence and safety training to its employees. The training should educate the employees on security principles and the measures and standards in the checklist of measures in the first requirement.