To be held responsible for an injury on the premises, the landlord or property manager must have been negligent in maintaining the property, and that negligence must have caused the injury. All of the following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable:
- It was the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident. The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.
- 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 accident was foreseeable).
- The landlord’s failure — his negligence — caused the tenant’s accident.
- 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 all of the following:
- 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).
- The landlord failed to take reasonable measures to maintain the steps (for days or weeks, not if it had only been broken for minutes).
- 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, and it was foreseeable (falling on a broken step is highly likely).
- The broken step caused the injury (the tenant must be able to prove that he fell on the step and that the step is where he broke his ankle).
- The tenant is really hurt (the tenant isn’t faking it).
A tenant can file a personal injury lawsuit or claim against the landlord’s insurance company for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability and disfigurement, and emotional distress. A tenant can also sue for damage to personal property, such as a stereo or car, that results from faulty maintenance or unsafe conditions.
Information excerpted from Every Landlords Legal Guide and NOLOlawforall.com