Can I Be Held Responsible For My Tenants’ Slip And Fall Injuries?

There are many benefits to becoming a landlord. Landlords are able to collect a relatively hands-off income through rental properties, while also gaining equity over time and having the ability to potentially return to their properties in the future if they wish to live within them. There are a variety of different types of landlords; some simply own one rental property and perhaps became landlords through providence, with their rental income supporting the single property largely; others own multiple properties, or perhaps even entire buildings and may even derive their primary incomes through these properties. Furthermore, certain landlords prefer to handle as much of their property management on their own, even taking care of certain repairs by themselves. Others do not even meet their tenants in person and would rather rely on property management companies to handle their affairs for them.

However, certain issues affect landlords regardless of how many properties they own, what kind of properties they own, or whether or not they work with a property management company. One of the biggest questions that many landlords have about their ownership of properties is to what degree they are liable for slip and fall injuries within their properties. This can be a particularly troublesome issue for apartment building owners, as they have a large number of tenants in the building at one time, and therefore a larger risk for slip and fall injuries. Already, 2015 alone saw over 20,000 workplace slip and fall injuries reported to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration merely within the state of California. But there is a difference between workplace slip and fall injuries and slip and fall injuries that occur within the home. There are more differences still when the home is a rental property.

Can Landlords Be Held Responsible For Slip And Fall Injuries That Occur On Their Properties?

The short answer to this is that yes, landlords can be held responsible for slip and fall injuries that occur on their properties; however, they may not always be held responsible for these injuries. A tenant would essentially need to bring a personal injury lawsuit against their landlord in order to be compensated. As is the situation for almost any personal injury case, negligence would therefore need to be proven. If the landlord cannot be proven to have been negligent, they will not be held liable. This means that the landlord is not liable if their tenant merely slips and falls on the property; rather, the landlord would have needed to cause or fail to prevent the conditions in which the slip and fall injury occurred. Even if the property was somehow unsafe, this alone does not mean that the landlord will be held liable. Rather, the property would need to be unsafe with the landlord’s knowledge; in this case, they were negligent in their failure to address the unsafe living conditions.

What Types Of Conditions Constitute Negligence?

Typically, slip and fall injuries for which a landlord could be held liable will either occur within the building’s interior or within close range in its exterior. This could vary, depending on large the property is. Often, slip and fall injuries within a home or building occur because a leak was dripping, and the individual slipped and fell on the wet floor. This is a different situation compared to someone slipping and falling under after, say, washing the dishes and getting the floor wet themselves. Yet simply because a leak occurred doesn’t mean that the landlord must be held liable. If the tenant calls the landlord to alert them of the leak and the landlord does nothing about it, then the landlord may be held liable. But if they do not call the landlord, the landlord likely won’t be held liable; and if neither knew about the leak, then the landlord further won’t be held liable in many cases. Again, everything in these situations is going to be reviewed on a case by case basis. Simply because a landlord did not immediately mend a leak doesn’t mean that they will automatically be held responsible, which is why many landlords do not automatically settle personal injury lawsuits with their tenants. When a jury reviews a case, they may understand that though the landlord intended to correct the issue, the slip and fall injury occurred before they could.

Other types of slip and fall injuries occur directly in the exterior of the home. Often, this occurs because the individual slipped and fell on a patch of ice or snow outside the building or house. This is a bit more complex than the above-mentioned situation. If a landlord states within their lease that they will be responsible for getting rid of ice or snow, then they could be held responsible. But if the lease does not state these terms, then the landlord could argue that the tenant was responsible for clearing these hazards, and therefore the landlord should not be held liable. Similarly, if a person trips and falls down the stairs because there was water on the stairs, their case probably won’t be settled in the tenant’s favor; they should have cleaned up the water. But if the stairs actually are damaged internally, the landlord may be held liable because the stairs were their responsibilities.

There are a number of situations in which a landlord could be held liable; but, though 80% of Americans report experiencing daily stress, landlords shouldn’t stress too much about slip and fall injuries. As long as they maintain their properties or use a trustworthy property management company, they should be clear of liability. Landlords shouldn’t automatically assume that settling is their only choice. When a personal injury lawsuit goes for a jury, a number of juries will understand and be more likely to side with the landlord, especially if they showed care for their properties and their tenants. While being a landlord has its stressors, the benefits often outweigh the risks!

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