A Property Owner in Florida May Not Have a Right to Privacy in Leased Premises

In Florida, an owner of property has strong constitutional privacy rights in his/her property. This means that, with few exceptions, the police cannot enter to search that property with consent from the homeowner or a valid search warrant. If the police knock on a property owner’s door and request to search the property, the owner has every right to refuse.

This right to privacy generally does not change when the property owner takes in a roommate or tenant. It generally does not change when the owner leases the property entirely to someone. However, it depends on the circumstances. The general idea is that if the law recognizes that the owner had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the property, even if it is leased to someone else, the owner maintains his/her privacy rights in that property with respect to the state. This means the owner can refuse entry into the property or challenge a search of that property by police in court.

Two examples may illustrate the difference. A property owner leases property to a tenant. The property owner keeps a key and goes inside the residence to check on it, make repairs and collects rent. The tenant lives at the residence, but the property owner maintains the right to go onto the property and go into the residence within reason. In this case, the property owner would exercise sufficient control over the property to maintain his/her privacy rights.

Alternatively, if the owner keeps a key and retains the right to go onto the property and into the residence but never does for any reason out of respect for the tenant’s privacy, that owner may lose his/her privacy rights to that property. The owner needs to establish some specific factors regarding the landlord tenant relationship that makes it clear the property owner maintains a reasonable expectation of his/her privacy in the property.

If the owner does not have sufficient privacy rights in that property and the police search it illegally and find incriminating evidence, the property owner would not be able to challenge the illegal search in court.

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