Generally, most of the injuries that happen in the home are our own faults. We leave things out that we trip over or we forget to grab oven mitts before reaching for our dinner. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that we can do about injuries like these as we’re the ones to blame.
But what if the thing that caused your injury wasn’t your fault? What if there was something wrong with the property that caused your accident? Shouldn’t that fall to your landlord to deal with?
The answer is that it depends. Landlords can be held liable for certain injuries in California, but it depends on the specifics of the situation. To see when a landlord is responsible, we’ll look at two periods. The first is what a landlord is responsible for before giving you possession of the property, the other is what they are liable for after they’ve given over the property. We’ll also look at what happens when your landlord gives maintenance duties out to an independent contractor to see who’s responsible in that situation.
What Is a Landlord Liable for Before Giving Possession to a Tenant?
It is a landlord’s duty to ensure that the place they are renting out is safe. They have a duty to perform a reasonable inspection of the property with an eye out for anything that might be considered an unsafe condition. When an unsafe condition is spotted, the landlord is bound by duty to repair it.
However, this might imply that a landlord only has a duty to repair unsafe conditions that they spot. In actuality, a landlord can be held liable for an unsafe condition that they failed to spot if a normal person would have spotted it during a reasonable inspection. Or, to put it another way, a half-baked inspection does not let a landlord off the hook.
Taking the scenario from above, it would not be the landlord’s fault if you tripped and fell over something that you had left out. But what if the landlord had missed the fact that the handrail on the staircase was falling apart? You reach out for the railing and it pulls free from the wall and sends you tumbling down the stairs.
This would be something that your landlord was liable for because they should have noticed the problem with the railing during their inspection. Their failure to properly inspect the premises and ensure that it was safe directly led to your accident and therefore you have a solid case for holding them responsible for your injuries.
What Is a Landlord Liable for After Giving Possession to a Tenant?
In most cases, a landlord is not liable for injuries that occur after they give the tenant possession of the property. After all, if you cause the unsafe condition that led to your injury then that is on you and not the landlord. For example, if you were the one that damaged the handrail then it wouldn’t be your landlord’s fault that you fell because it was loose.
The reason for this is simple. Your landlord does not have the right to enter the premises without your permission and so they likely have absolutely no idea what it looks like on the inside of your dwelling anymore. They ensured it was safe when they handed over possession and that’s that.
This is, except for in two situations:
- The landlord had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition, as well as the right to repair it
- The injury occurred in the common area of the property and so the landlord still had full control of it
Stairwells, hallways, lobbies, and elevators are all examples of common areas that a landlord would still be responsible for. They have a duty to ensure these areas are kept safe and so they can be held liable for injuries that occur in these areas due to unsafe conditions.
The situation of having actual knowledge of a dangerous condition and the right to repair it is a little more complicated. The landlord must know about the condition, which is harder for them to do when they aren’t able to enter your apartment. They also have to have the right to repair it. A lawsuit covering a situation of this nature can be tricky because the defense could win by disproving either of these points.
Is a Landlord Still Liable If They Give Maintenance Duties to an Independent Contractor?
It is your landlord’s responsibility to keep the common areas of the property in a safe condition. But the landlord themselves are busy, they have a career of their own outside of owning property, so they have hired an independent contractor to take care of the building.
Despite this, the stairwell is still unsafe and you’ve suffered an injury due to it. Who’s to blame now?
Even if your landlord happens to live in another state, this would be no excuse for the unsafe conditions. The landlord is still the one responsible for maintaining the common areas of the property. They may have hired an independent contractor to take care of it for them but if that contractor fails to keep the property safe it doesn’t matter, it is still the landlord that is liable.
It is also worth noting that a landlord isn’t only responsible for injuries that tenants suffered. If you invited somebody over and they were injured in the common area, then the landlord would be liable for those injuries if it was due to unsafe conditions. Of course, any injuries due to conditions outside of the landlord’s responsibilities or knowledge can’t be held against them. There may even be a case if they are partially responsible for their injuries.
Should I Speak With a Lawyer About My Injury?
You should absolutely speak with a lawyer about your injuries. Even if you’re not entirely sure if your landlord could be held liable, a consultation with The Accident Network Law Group can help you determine if you have a case to go forward with. Considering how expensive injuries can be, not even counting what permanent damage they can leave behind, it only makes sense that you’d seek compensation for your landlord’s failure to maintain a safe property.