The general rule is that an owner of real property has a duty to provide adequate security to guests and invitees who live on or who visit the premises. What constitutes “adequate security” is usually a question of fact which depends upon the particular use of the real property in question and whether there have been known prior incidents of criminal activity. For example, the owner of an apartment complex, where there have been no incidents of criminal activity, may only be required to provide adequate lighting in compliance with the local building code. However, if there have been burglaries or assaults on the premises, the owner might be required to install security cameras, construct a limited access gate, retain a security guard, or take such other measures to meet the “adequate security” standard.
What if a tenant is killed on the premises by a third party assault and battery which could have been prevented had the owner retained a security guard, but at the time of the assault, the tenant was operating an illegal “chop shop” in his rental unit? The Florida legislature adopted a law which provides, in pertinent part:
“A person or organization owning or controlling an interest in real property, or an agent of such person or organization, shall not be held liable for negligence that results in the death of, injury to, or damage to a person who is attempting to commit a felony or who is engaged in the commission of a felony on the property.” See Sec. 768.075(4), Florida Statutes.
A Florida appellate court recently ruled that the above cited Statute will insulate the property owner from liability if the person killed was committing a felony on the property (e.g. operating a chop shop) at the time he was killed, even if the property owner failed to provide adequate security. See Kuria v. BMLRW, LLLP, Case No. 1D12-0592, December 5, 2012 (Fla. 1st DCA). Thus, the property owner in the hypothetical presented will have no liability to the deceased tenant’s heirs.