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By Matthew Petra

“The common law rule of caveat lessee provides that once a landlord delivers possession and control of the leased premises, including the plumbing, drains, and appliances for heating, lighting and power to the tenant, the landlord is not liable for injury to the property or person of the tenant or those on the premises with the permission of the tenant, even though such injuries are attributable to defects in such apparatus, appliances or fixtures. In other words, once the landlord surrenders possession and control of the leased premises to the tenant, absent fraud or concealment, the tenant assumes the risk as to the condition of the premises, including the heating, lighting apparatus, plumbing, water pipes, sewer, etc.” Veterans Gas Co. v. Gibbs, 538 So. 2d 1325, 1327 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1989).

Let the buyer beware, or in this case, let the tenant beware. In Florida, the judge-made doctrine of caveat emptor applies to commercial leases. And, the above-cited case is still applicable in Florida, even though it is thirty years old. If your business is considering a commercial lease, just know, it’s not like a residential lease in this important respect (i.e. the application of the doctrine of caveat emptor).

You will need to ensure that you are well informed about the condition of the premises you are planning to lease. And, you need to have your lease diligently reviewed to determine (i) whether or not the landlord will have any repair and maintenance obligations, and, if so, (ii) the scope of those obligations. In fact, if the landlord undertakes to repair or improve the leased premises, it must exercise reasonable care in so doing. If a landlord is negligent in its undertakings, it could be open to liability.

Therefore, be aware that you, as the tenant, might be leasing the premises “As IS”, warts and all; but, the lease itself may shift several ongoing repair and maintenance obligations to the landlord. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. A careful review of your proposed lease with your attorney could result in substantial savings over the life of your lease.