Is a landlord liable if a tenant or visitor is injured on the rental property?

A landlord may be liable to the tenant--or others-for injuries caused by dangerous or defective conditions on the rental property. In order to hold the landlord responsible, the tenant must prove that the landlord was negligent and that the landlord's negligence caused an injury. To do this, the injured person must show that:

  • the landlord had control over the problem that caused the injury,
  • the accident was foreseeable,
  • fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult,
  • a serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem,
  • the landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident,
  • the landlord's failure-his negligence caused the tenant's accident, and
  • the tenant was genuinely hurt.

For example, if a tenant falls and breaks his ankle on a broken front door step, the landlord will be liable if the tenant can show that:

  • it was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the steps (this would usually be the case, because the steps are part of the common area, which is the landlord's responsibility)
  • an accident of this type was foreseeable (falling on a broken step is highly likely)
  • a repair would have been easy or inexpensive (fixing a broken step is a minor job)
  • the probable result of a broken step is a serious injury (a fall certainly qualifies)
  • the landlord failed to take reasonable measures to maintain the steps (this will be easy to prove if the step was broken for weeks, or even days, but less so if the step broke five minutes earlier and showed no previous signs of weakening)
  • the broken step caused the injury (this is easy to prove if the tenant has a witness to the fall, but might be hard if there are no witnesses and the landlord claims that the tenant really got hurt somewhere else and is attempting to pin the blame on the landlord), and
  • the tenant is really hurt (in the case of a broken bone, this is easy to establish).

A tenant can file a personal injury lawsuit for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability, disfigurement, and emotional distress. A tenant can also sue for property damage that results from faulty maintenance or unsafe conditions.

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