Let’s say you’re visiting a friend who lives in an apartment. As you walk toward the door to your friend’s unit, you slip on a puddle on the ground and suffer grievous injuries. Your friend finds you in a pained state and rushes you to a nearby hospital for immediate treatment.
After learning that your medical treatment costs a significant amount of money, you decide to seek compensation to pay for your injuries through a lawsuit. But whom will you file a lawsuit against? Your friend the renter, or the landlord who owns the property?
Responsibility for harm
Generally speaking, a landlord isn’t liable to a tenant or guest for physical harm caused by a condition on the property if said condition appeared after the landlord turned over possession to the tenant. But there are exceptions to this rule.
The landlord can be held responsible for accidental injuries in the following cases:
- Accidents in common areas: The landlord may be liable for injuries caused by conditions in the common areas that all tenants share. Landlords usually keep possession of these common areas (such as elevators, hallways, stairs, lobbies, etc.), so they have a duty of ordinary care.
- Latent defects: These are hidden risks that landlords know (or should know) but were concealed from the tenant. These include damaged HVAC systems, defective plumbing and faulty electrical wiring.
- Negligence in repairs: Landlords making any repairs to the property must do so safely and competently. If faulty repair work leads to accidents for tenants or visitors, the landlord can be held responsible.
However, landlords can’t be responsible for accidents caused by the tenant’s actions and personal effects. If a visitor slips because of a leak caused by a renter’s self-watering planters, for instance, then the tenant is responsible for the injury.
To sum up, landlords are liable if fixed parts of the rental premises cause an injury. Tenants are responsible if their belongings or modifications caused the accidents. If you plan to file a lawsuit for an injury you took in an apartment you don’t live in, consider seeking a personal injury lawyer with premises liability law experience. Premises liability cases are often very complex, and it would be useful to have a lawyer who can guide you through the process and ensure you get the full compensation for your injuries.