Liability for injuries on a rental property accident is a serious consideration for landlords. If you do not have liability insurance, a single accident could conceivably bankrupt you. Make sure you understand your responsibilities and know when you are and when you are not liable for injuries that occur on your rental property.
There are specific laws and guidelines that are intended to protect tenants from negligent landlords. Here are some common scenarios and some basic "judgments" about whether or not the landlord could be held liable for an injury on their property.
1. A landlord knows about a broken flagstone on the walkway of his apartment complex. Although the landlord has been aware of the problem for more than two months, he has not repaired it. A tenant trips over the broken flagstone and ends up with a broken limb. Is the landlord responsible?
In this scenario, the landlord would most likely be liable for the injuries sustained by the tenant because the landlord knew about the hazard and did not have it repaired within a reasonable amount of time. This preexisting knowledge and the amount of time that has elapsed show negligence on the part of the landlord.
2. A landlord knows about a faulty handrail on a set of stairs and she plans on having it repaired next week. No warning is posted about the condition of the handrail. A tenant grabs on to the railing and falls to the ground, injuring himself. Is the landlord responsible?
Although the landlord took steps to have the damage repaired, she did not adequately warn tenants of the potential danger by posting warning signs. This failure to provide a warning to tenants means that the landlord will still be held liable for the injury that occurred.
3. A landlord provides a swimming pool for tenants of his apartment complex. He has posted a sign at the pool declaring that tenants swim at their own risk, and provides a list of unacceptable behavior, such as running on the edge of the pool. This sign complies with state laws regarding use of public swimming pools. A tenant slips and hurts herself while running around the pool. Is the landlord liable for the injury?
Because a sign was posted in compliance with state guidelines regarding liability notices, the landlord should not be held responsible for the injury that occurred. Because the tenant failed to follow the posted instructions, she should not have recourse for an injury claim.
4. A tenant informs the landlord that a stair leading up to a common area of a complex has been damaged. The landlord schedules repair for the step and posts a warning sign next to the broken stair. Later that day, a tenant is injured after using the stair. Is the landlord responsible for this injury?
In this case, the landlord should not be held liable for this injury because she took two important steps: scheduling the repair and posting a warning.
5. The wind has damaged a sign that hangs near the entrance to the building. One of the supports is no longer attached to the sign, leaving it dangling above the entrance. Although the landlord has been alerted, he decides that the remaining support can support the weight of the sign, and he takes no action. After a week, the sign falls on a tenant, injuring him severely. Is the landlord liable?
Because the landlord knew about the damage and decided not to take action, he would most likely be held liable for this injury. Negligence can be hard to prove, but in this particular instance, the landlord would have a hard time proving he acted reasonably.
Even if you have liability insurance, it is your job as a landlord to provide safe living conditions for your tenants. Some tenants may not elect to pursue a claim against you, but you owe it to your tenants to provide them with a home or apartment that is safe, secure, and free from danger.