Are Landlords Liable for Injuries that Occur on Rental Property?

by Team eLocal
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Who’s liable for injuries that occur on rental properties? The landlord or the tenant? Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to these questions. It ultimately depends on the specific situation.

State laws often treat tenants differently than guests, workers and other third parties on a property. When a third party is injured, it’s possible that either the landlord or the tenant could be liable, depending on the cause of the injury. Under some circumstances, a landlord might be liable for a third party’s injury, but not a tenant’s injury.

However, landlords can be liable for a tenant’s injuries. If the injuries are due to landlord negligence, the landlord may be held liable. If, on the other hand, the injuries were caused by a mere accident, the injured party is likely responsible for their own medical expenses and other costs.

So, how can you tell who — if anyone — is liable for injuries that occur on rental properties? Here’s everything you need to know.

Can a Landlord Be Held Liable for Tenant Injuries?

Can a tenant sue a landlord for injury? The simple answer is yes — but only if the landlord is liable for the injuries. It really depends on the type of injury, how the injury occurred and where on the property it took place.

In most jurisdictions, for a tenant to sue their landlord for injuries received on the rental property, two conditions must be met. First, there must be documented proof that an injury occurred. This often requires pictures, medical reports and witness statements, if possible. Secondly, the tenant must be able to prove that the landlord was negligent.

Landlords have a legal responsibility to provide tenants with a safe environment that meets all building codes and health regulations. They have an obligation to make the necessary repairs and install required safety features to prevent injuries from occurring on rental properties. Landlords who fail to meet these requirements may be liable for injuries sustained on the property.

For example, if the handrail on the stairways is loose and the landlord doesn’t repair it in a timely manner, the landlord could be liable if the tenant falls down the stairs and sustains injuries. Additionally, if the landlord refuses to take care of a mold problem and the tenant becomes ill due to the mold, the landlord could be held liable.

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What Is Landlord Negligence?

Landlords can only be held liable for injuries on rental properties if the tenant can prove they were negligent.

The legal definition of negligence is failing to exercise an ordinary level of cautiousness given the circumstances. Landlord negligence is usually the failure to take care of the rental property. For example, landlords are responsible for ensuring the structural integrity of the rental property, making sure all walkways and stairways are safe and maintaining working smoke alarms in the building. Failure to make reasonable repairs or to provide safety features puts them at risk for a lawsuit.

When Your Landlord Isn’t Liable

There are several situations in which you cannot sue your landlord for injuries occurring on the rental property.

Renter Neglect

Landlords are not typically liable if the tenant was negligent. For example, if the tenant is responsible for shoveling the sidewalk but fails to do so, the landlord would not be liable if the tenant falls on the ice. However, if someone other than the tenant falls on the icy sidewalk, the landlord might still be found liable for any injuries that occur.

This is where the lease agreement becomes extremely important. Typically, landlords use the lease to delegate who is responsible for certain maintenance issues at the rental property. For instance, the lease might state that the tenant is responsible for keeping all walkways clear. If the tenant trips over something left in the walkway, the landlord is not responsible for the tenant’s negligence.

Unknowing Repair Issues

Landlords may not be liable for injuries sustained by a maintenance issue they didn’t know about. For instance, if the carpeting on the stairway starts to pull up, but the tenant didn’t alert the landlord to the problem, it could be difficult for the tenant to prove negligence.

Unforeseeable Accidents

Sometimes an accident is just that — an accident. If it’s deemed that a reasonable person couldn’t foresee a potential risk on the property, the landlord might not be held liable for the injuries. For example, if a car runs into the house, causing the ceiling to fall and injure the tenant, the landlord could not foresee that this would happen and is, therefore, not liable. In this case, the driver of the car is likely the liable party.

Dog Bites

Landlords are also not typically responsible for dog bites on their rental property unless, of course, it’s their dog. Liability usually falls to the dog owner. However, if the landlord knew that a tenant’s dog was aggressive but failed to take corrective measures, the landlord could be responsible if the dog bites another tenant or third party.

The best way landlords can protect themselves from any type of personal injury claims on their rental property is to ensure their properties are properly maintained.

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