If you slip and fall in your rental house or apartment, could your landlord be legally responsible for your injuries? What about if the fall happens outside the house, or in one of your apartment building's common areas? In this article we'll explain:
Just like in any personal injury claim, to succeed with a slip-and-fall case the injured person has to show that someone was negligent.
When lawyers talk about "negligence," they mean responsibility for an accident and the resulting injuries. Proving that a landlord was responsible for a slip-and-fall injury would involve showing that:
Keep in mind that landlords aren't expected or required to keep their properties completely safe. One key question is whether the landlord knew—or should have known—about the dangerous condition. If the landlord did know, then courts will look at whether the landlord acted appropriately to protect people and eliminate the danger.
In other words, were the landlord's decisions and actions reasonable under the circumstances?
Let's look at a couple of examples of how these legal rules apply in real-world situations.
Let's say that there's a leak in the ceiling of your rental apartment. The water pools on the floor and you end up slipping and falling. Your landlord's liability would depend, in part, on whether they knew or should've known about the leak.
If the leak started unexpectedly, and you slipped before you had time to notify the landlord, it's unlikely the landlord would be found negligent. In that scenario, the landlord didn't know about the leak and had no opportunity to act reasonably and fix it.
On the other hand, the landlord could be liable if:
Remember that a landlord's liability depends, in part, on whether the injured person's behavior was reasonable. In a situation like this, a judge or jury would consider whether you took proper precautions once you knew about the leak. Juries, especially, often hold personal injury plaintiffs to a high standard and assume that they should have been on the lookout for danger.
That's why, if you notice an unsafe condition in your rental house or apartment, you should notify your landlord immediately, and also take reasonable steps to protect yourself.
Depending on the issue or potential danger, it could make sense to:
If the problem is serious, and the landlord doesn't take care of it quickly, you might want to consult an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law. Legal aid organizations and state and local governments often offer this kind of advice free of charge.
Let's say you're hurt in a slip-and-fall in one of the common areas of your apartment building (or on the path or sidewalk of your rented house). The location's different, but you can think about your landlord's potential liability in the same way you would if you fell inside your rental unit.
First, you need to know if your landlord was responsible for maintaining and repairing the area where the accident happened. There are two important points here:
So, what if you slip on ice on the walkway going from the front door of your rental house to the street? In general it's the landlord's responsibility to keep driveways and pathways clear of snow and ice. But, before concluding that your landlord is responsible for your accident, you'd need to make sure that you didn't agree in your lease to shovel the snow and salt the pavement yourself.
Second, you (and, potentially, a judge or a jury) will need to ask if your injuries were the result of your landlord's failure to fulfil their responsibilities. Let's consider a situation where you're injured in a fall on the stairs in your apartment building's common area. Your landlord's liability would depend, in part, on whether your actions and your landlord's actions were reasonable. Consider these two examples:
If you're hurt in a slip-and-fall accident and think your landlord might be responsible, it's vital to act quickly to make sure you have the strongest possible claim. That includes:
If you live in a multi-unit building, you should also see if other tenants either saw the dangerous condition that caused your accident, or have had any issues getting the landlord to address their safety concerns. Gathering evidence like this, and deciding how to communicate with the landlord or their insurance company, are areas where you could want help from an experienced personal injury attorney.
If you've been injured in a fall, you can learn more about how to make a slip-and-fall claim and about when a property owner is liable for accidents on their property. You can also read more about your legal rights and obligations as a tenant or a landlord.