Property owners have the duty to take reasonable steps to prevent injuries to their guests or residents. Owners can be liable in a personal injury lawsuit for these typical and unusual types of premises liability.
Slips and falls
Owners may be liable for slip-and-fall injuries where the risk was obvious, and they did not alleviate known potential hazards. These typically occur in doorways, stairs, ramps, ladders, uneven surfaces, and areas that are crowded.
Owners can be responsible for injuries in dangerous areas by spilling liquids or other slippery materials, did not repair worn or damaged carpets or other materials and did not maintain laundry rooms, yards and other common areas. Inadequate lighting, debris or poor accessibility also contribute to their responsibility.
Landlords may be liable if they knew that the dog was dangerous and could have been removed from the property. They should take these precautions:
- Only permit dog breeds that were evaluated and approved.
- Require that dogs be leashed when they are outside of their owner’s apartment.
- Allow for pet policy changes at any time with 30 days’ notice, if practicable.
- Removing the dog or ending the lease if pet rules are violated.
- Require renters’ insurance with liability coverage.
- Prepare for emotional support and service animals, which are allowed in apartments.
Owners face liability by not taking precautions to protect their residents from crime, especially if the owner knew that the crime or similar crimes occurred on or near the property. These measures may reduce their liability:
- Comply with legal requirements for lighting and door and window locks.
- Promptly addressing dangerous situations.
- Fixing security lights as soon as possible.
- Inform the police and residents by text or email or by updating the residential portal when there is suspicious activity.
- Hiring security guards and having surveillance equipment.
- Trimming trees and shrubs so they do not provide cover for unlawful activity.
Owners also have the duty of protecting neighbors, in addition to their residents, from crime. They may be held liable for drug dealing on their property and other nuisances. These measures may help protect residents and neighbors:
- Screen residents carefully
- Check personal and professional references and with previous landlords.
- Clearly prohibit criminal activity such as drug dealing in the lease and evict tenants who commit infractions.
- Contact police when illegal activity is observed.
Owners are also responsible for any harm to tenants committed by their employees. Employees should be carefully screened.
Owners and management companies may be liable when children are injured or killed from falling out of a window. Landlords should tell parents that open windows are dangerous, install window screens after promising to install them and replacing or repairing damaged screens or windows.
Secondhand smoke may violate the owner’s responsibility to provide livable housing known as the implied warranty of habitability. This smoke may also be a nuisance when it enters a resident’s unit or a common area. Residents who have trouble breathing under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Fair Housing Act may take legal action.
In their leases, landlords can restrict smoking. They could at least designate smoking areas where smoke does not drift into common areas or assure that smoke does travel in a duct system or drift between balconies.
Owners can be liable for bedbugs. They have the responsibility of having units inspected by a licensed pest control property certified as being free from bed bugs after tenants move out.
Leases should require synthetic covers on mattresses and box springs and that residents report bed buds, follow pest control company recommendations and dispose possessions causing the infestation.