What Tenants Need To Know About Premise Liability

Most people nowadays prefer renting a property instead of buying a new one. It may not be ideal, but it offers some attractive advantages, such as zero maintenance costs and repairs, no real estate taxes to pay, and no hefty down-payment to provide. In addition, it offers flexibility for people to choose where to live and gives them the freedom to downsize for lower insurance and utility costs.

Indeed, renting a property offers great benefits one can’t ignore. But what if an accident happens within the property (e.g., slip and fall accidents)? Can you sue a landlord if you’re injured? This is where premise liability comes in. Can you sue a landlord if you’re injured? This is where premise liability comes in.

What Is Premise Liability?

Generally, property owners are responsible for keeping their rental properties as safe as possible to ensure no one gets injured, especially their tenants. 

Premise liability holds property owners liable for injuries and accidents that may take place within their property. These accidents may range from inadequate building security to slips and falls (e.g., on the stairs, swimming pools, or residential sidewalks).

For example, you can sue your landlord if you slip and fall from a poorly built staircase or inadequate lighting. However, if they can prove that you have acted unsafely, you might not have a valid claim over your accident.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about premise liability. This includes determining the liability of property owners, who is responsible between a tenant and a landlord, and more.

What Are Premise Liability Lawsuits?

Premise liability lawsuits are personal injury cases filed by tenants against property owners due to injuries caused by dangerous and unsafe conditions. 

Here are the common situations that can lead to premise liability lawsuits:

  • Slip and fall accidents (e.g., slippery stairs, missing handrails, inadequate lighting, etc.)
  • Inadequate premises maintenance (e.g., cracks on walls, leaky gas pipes, etc.)
  • Swimming pool accidents (e.g., lack of safety railings, inadequate life supports, etc.)
  • Animal and dog bites
  • Negligent or inadequate security (e.g., lack of surveillance cameras, etc.)
  • Fires (e.g., leaky gas pipes, lack of fire prevention equipment, etc.)
  • Ice and snow accidents (e.g., inadequate ice and snow removal, etc.) 

Among these situations, the most common are slip-and-fall accidents. You can hear them everywhere, from merchandise stores to supermarkets carrying products prone to leakage. Also, they can result from broken staircases, uneven flooring, and more. 

However, hazards causing slips and falls must be present reasonably. Moreover, they mustn’t be so evident that an individual would have been able to avoid them without warning.

How To Determine The Liability Of Property Owners?

Two factors can help determine the liability of property owners. These are the following:

  • Failure To Provide A Danger-Free Facility

Property owners are responsible for providing their tenants and visitors with a safe facility. This is because they have more control over their properties than others.

For example, a landlord didn’t install railings on a staircase, which caused their tenant to slip and fall despite being extra careful. This situation indicates that the landlord failed to make their property safer for their tenants.

  • Victims Sustaining Injuries Related To The Unsafe Premises

To receive compensation from property owners, you must prove the relationship between your injuries and the unsafe premises. Also, you must prove that you didn’t act negligently when the accident occurred.   

For example, you fractured your ankle after running down the stairs in high heels. In this situation, you may not be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries because your negligence caused them. However, you can file a premise liability lawsuit if you fall down the stairs due to a worn-down or damaged stair step.

Is A Property Owner Liable For Injuries Of Your Guests?

Suppose a visitor sustains an injury while on your premises; the property owner will likely avoid responsibility under the presumption that you are in charge. However, that’s not always the case. If the cause of the injuries were property defects or other hazardous conditions that preexist before you moved in, the property owner must be held liable. 

Nevertheless, note that different states have different provisions and conditions regarding premise liability. Some may focus on the visitor’s status to determine whether there’s a liability. A visitor could be called a trespasser, licensee, or invitee.

  • Invitee: An invitee is an individual invited to a property for commercial purposes (e.g., asking people to visit your shop as customers).
  • Licensee: Also known as a social guest, a licensee is an individual invited to a property without professional or commercial intentions (e.g., inviting someone for a birthday celebration). 
  • Trespasser: A trespasser is an individual not invited to the property and has no right to enter the premises.

A property owner or a tenant may not be liable for a trespasser’s injuries, provided that they don’t intend to hurt them (e.g., setting traps). However, they must give warnings if they know that entering the property can be dangerous.

But there’s an exception to this rule. Child trespassers who might be attracted to enter the property might require a higher level of care. You and your landlord might be liable for their injuries due to negligence (e.g., lack of substantial and reasonable warning).

What Is Comparative Negligence In A Premise Liability Lawsuit?

Comparative negligence means more than one party is at fault in a case; in premise liability, it’s you (the tenant) and your landlord. But who will be the one to sue you and your landlord? None other than the third-party individuals: the invitee, the licensee, and the trespasser (it depends).

Keep in mind that even if third-party individuals are partially at fault, they may still seek compensation. However, their claims may depend on their percentage of fault. Below is a sample computation:

  • Suppose an invitee is 10% partly liable for their injuries on your property. Both you and your landlord are 45% at fault. If the total cost of damages is $200,000, the invitee’s claims will be 10% lower, leaving them with $180,000. This means you and your landlord owe $90,000 each to the invitee.

Final Thoughts

Premise liability holds tenants and property owners responsible for the accidents and injuries caused by their unsafe property. 

A property owner might be held liable if the tenant proves that they sustained their injuries due to the unsafe conditions of the building. However, a tenant may be held responsible if the injured is someone they invited to their property.  

Premise liability cases can be complicated, as provisions and conditions may vary from state to state. Consequently, it would be best to seek assistance from professional lawyers specializing in personal injury to ensure you get your claims and minimize the compensation you owe in case you’re partly at fault.

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