What duties are landlords legally obligated to perform for tenants?
Generally a landlord is responsible for injuries caused by lack of ordinary care or skill in management of her property with a few exceptions. This means a landlord is responsible for injuries caused by her carelessness and is responsible for exercising reasonable care in providing and maintaining the rented property. Factors in determining whether the landlord has exercised the requisite due care include:
- the foreseeability of the harm;
- the probability of serious injury;
- the burden of reducing or avoiding risk;
- the landlord’s knowledge of the risk;
- the landlord’s control over the premises and the risk-creating defect.
The landlord will only be found liable for those dangers that are on or originate on the rented property. Landlords are not responsible for dangers for which he/she has no control over preventing. In addition if a landlord violates safety statutes or regulations this lends is a violation of the duty of due care.
Duty to Inspect
Landlords must inspect rental property to determine whether or not it meets safety and adequate living standards.
- An inspection of the rental property must be complete each time the property is leased regardless of whether the landlord is aware of any current defects in the property.
- The duty to inspect charges a landlord with knowledge of those defects that would be known via a reasonable inspection of the premises.
- It is important to remember that the landlord’s duty to inspect may be diminished by the landlord’s right to enter and inspect the premises while occupied by the tenant.
Duty to Repair Defects
Generally a landlord may be liable for injuries resulting from a defect that the landlord has failed to repair or has repaired in a negligent manner. Factors taken into consideration for this duty include:
- landlord’s knowledge of the defect;
- burden of repairing the defect;
- landlord’s ability to enter the premises to make the repairs.
The main point of consideration is whether the landlord acted like a reasonable person considering the circumstances.
Warranty of Habitability
Landlords also have a duty to maintain the tenant’s bare living requirement or warranty of habitability
- A landlord has a duty to maintain the vital facilities of the rented property.
- When defects affect a tenants bare living requirements, a landlord may be liable under specific statutes as well as tort actions for damages suffered by annoyance or discomfort or for injury to personal property caused by landlord’s failure to keep premises in a habitable condition.
A court may also apportion damages by reducing rent by a percentage corresponding to the percentage reduction of use of the facility as a result of the damage. The warranty of habitability does not impose a duty on the landlord to make sure the rented property is in a aesthetically pleasing condition.
Violations of Safety Law
If a landlord violates a safety law he/she may be presumed to be negligent. A tenant must show that an ordinance has been violated and that the violation caused the injury. In addition the ordinance must be proven to protect against the type of harm which has occurred. A landlord may rebut this presumption of liability by demonstrating that he/she did what a reasonable person exercising ordinary prudence acting under similar conditions would have done to comply with the law.
Criminal Acts of Third Parties
Generally, a landlord has a duty to take affirmative steps to protect persons on his/her premises from the wrongful acts of others when the landlord has reasonable cause to anticipate acts, and the probability of injury resulting from the acts.
Cause of Action for a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In determining whether a landlord had reasonable cause to anticipate the acts, the issue of foreseeability in light of all the circumstances surrounding the injury is of chief importance. A plaintiff must establish that the landlord’s act or lack there of was the cause of the injury. A plaintiff may be able to obtain punitive damages if he/she is able to demonstrate that the landlord acted with oppression, fraud or malice.