Even a good landlord occasionally finds themselves in a tricky situation. When a tenant injures themselves, there are a number of situations in which a landlord could find themselves liable for the injuries. This is especially true in instances when the tenant has just moved in. Central to the question of liability for premises and personal injury lawsuits is the role of negligence.
In order for a tenant to make a successful case against their landlord, they must be able to prove that the landlord was negligent in their duties to maintain a safe residence. What precisely does this entail?
In order for a landlord to be held negligent in a premises liability suit, the tenant/plaintiff must be able to prove that either:
The first criterion pretty much speaks for itself. A tenant makes a landlord aware of an issue, the landlord doesn’t act on that information, and then a tenant or guest is injured because of the safety hazard. This is when the landlord could be liable for the damages.
The second criterion means that negligence can be inferred circumstantially under different situations. For instance, a landlord cannot claim ignorance of the fact that there is lead-based paint on their premises. Nor can they claim ignorance of the fact that any materials that were used in the construction of the property are potentially hazardous. The landlord is expected to know this information and to disclose it to anyone that is paying to reside in the property.
In addition, negligence can sometimes be inferred when a landlord does not provide a careful inspection of the premises before a tenant moves in. If the tenant is injured or has property destroyed due to a preventable and obvious problem on the premises, they can be held liable for damages and injuries.
It should not be a shocking revelation that landlords who keep their premises in excellent condition seldom lose or even have to fight premises liability lawsuits. Making a careful inspection of the property before a new tenant moves in and responding to tenant issues promptly will absolve a landlord of most negligence claims against them.
What you should do:
One popular way that landlords protect themselves is by investing in General Liability (GL) policies. GL policies protect owners from safety issues that may occur on the premises. They cover the cost associated with potential damages awarded to tenants and the cost of defending yourself against the claim.
What level of coverage should you purchase?
A tenant will win a personal injury lawsuit against their landlord when they can prove:
If a tenant can prove all of these, or that the landlord should have known about the problem the tenant is entitled to recover:
If, as a result of the injuries, the tenant is left permanently disabled, damages can be awarded into the millions in favor of the plaintiff. If the injuries are caused to a child on the premises, and the result is a permanent developmental disability, you can find yourself in serious financial trouble, to say the least.
The truth is, most premises liability claims against landlords can be easily avoided by carefully inspecting the property before a new tenant moves in, ensuring that you respond to the tenant’s issues promptly, and covering your bases in terms of having the proper levels of insurance. Landlords who follow this simple advice will never have to worry about fighting a premises liability lawsuit.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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