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6 Causes Of Tenant Injury That Landlords Are Liable For
One of the big nightmares of landlords is when tenants suffer some form of injury in the house. And it’s not just the type of nightmares that wake you in the middle of the night. They even linger in your head in the day too.
It’s not always a straight forward case whether a landlord is legally liable for injuries suffered by a tenant.
However, the case for you will look extremely bleak should the injury be caused by the following.
Remember that landlords are responsible for any maintenance and repair requirements that are imposed by local housing codes.
And according to the legal concept of implied warranty of habitability, you are obligated to make sure your property adhere to minimum requirement standards including:
- maintaining plumbing
- supplying hot water
- arranging trash removal
- upkeeping safe conditions
- and many many more
So if injuries were caused by your negligence in upkeeping the house in a habitable state, your chances look slim.
For example, if a tenant gets burnt from fire caused by a faulty electrical outlet, your chances won’t be very good if the last time you made a maintenance check was 5 years ago. Or if a tenant gets badly scalded by the water heater as the thermostat was showing the wrong temperature, you could be liable too.
2) Violation of safety law
Although different states can have varying law concerning health and safety, a lot of them have very similar ones concerning smoke detectors, sprinklers, childproof fences around swimming pools, etc.
And some state laws explicitly state that landlords who fail to comply will be considered negligent should tenants suffer injuries as a result of this failure.
Nobody likes to see another person gets harmed. Don’t let your obsession with keeping costs low be an indirect or direct cause of injuries to other parties.
3) Failing to make material repairs
Sometimes landlords can explicitly state within a tenancy agreement that tenants are not allowed to conduct certain repairs themselves.
You could have your reasons to insert such terms on the contract.
But if a specified item breaks down, and the tenant is forbidden to repair it due to the terms of lease, you would obviously be in a tight spot should injuries be suffered as a result of a failure to make those repairs.
Common sense will tell you that should you forbid someone to repair something, and you fail to repair it too, you are then responsible for injuries caused by you not doing your job. And the law more or less agrees with that too.
However, there might be a light at the end of the tunnel if the tenant had failed to inform you of the problem in the first place.
4) Failing to keep the house in a habitable state
Sometimes a single problem in a homely house can make it unlivable.
For example, a broken heater in the coldest months of winter can make a house unfit for human habitation. Of course this would also depend on the location and other circumstances.
The gist is that if a tenant has rented a place of yours, you can bet your last dollar that he expects a place where he can live in without any threat to his life. So if a landlord does not provide that implicit requirement, he is failing in his duties as a landlord.
You would get in trouble should you knew about the problem and had a reasonable amount of time to rectify it.
The best example of a reckless act is to ignore fire safety issues and a fire actually breaks out.
Unintentional fires don’t happen often at home. So fire safety is often something that both landlords and tenants don’t pay attention to.
The truth is that people who suffer from home fires would almost always say that they never thought that it could happen. And very often, they only take is seriously after something bad happens.
That can be too little too late in some cases.
Being a reckless landlord can have serious consequences when your luck’s run out. You could be sued and lose a fortune from just 1 mishap.
So please, don’t get complacent.
6) Specific requirements imposed by law
In some instances, local law can be as specific as requiring landlords to enforce specific actions.
For example, if tenants are poisoned by mold or lead-based paint.
It is your duty as a landlord to familiarize yourself with local state laws that are applicable to your properties. And it is your responsibility to adhere to them. You can’t blame anyone but yourself should your tenants get injured due to your negligence.
Get ready for a few calls with your insurance agent on that liability cover.
At the same time, you might also be interested to know that if a tenant himself is partially responsible or fully responsible for his injuries, the situation would be less grim for you.
For example, if the key reason why a tenant stumbled down the stairs and fractured leg was that he was drunk or high on marijuana, the landlord would have a lesser liability, if any. This however, is up to the landlord to prove.