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How to Prove Landlord Negligence

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 27, 2017 6:00 AM

When an injury occurs, or a financial loss occurs, as a result of a landlord's negligence, an individual will likely need to be able to prove their case in order to recover. Rarely are injuries or losses so clearly the result of an action or failure to act that the injury or loss itself is evidence enough.

Negligence occurs when one person acts carelessly, or without regard for the consequences of their actions, or if that person fails to act when they should have done something, and their action, or failure to act, causes another person to be injured or suffer a financial loss. The most common negligence cases involve car accidents, as these tend to occur due to one driver's inattention. However, frequently, when a person is injured on the property of another, the property owner (or controller) can potentially be found negligent under the legal theory of premises liability.

Holding Anyone Liable for Negligence

Generally, to prove a defendant is liable for negligence, an injured or damaged person must show that:

  • The defendant owed a duty to the injured person
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • That the breach of the duty is what caused the injury or damages, and
  • That there actually was an injury or financial damages

In cases against landlords, the question of whether or not a duty was owed, and who owed that duty, to the injured person will often be contested.

Is Notice Required for Landlord Liability?

A landlord generally has a duty to not only their tenants, but also tenants' guests, and potentially even the public, if common areas are accessible to guests and the public. Usually, the duty owed is to keep the common areas in a habitable and safe condition, such as by ensuring railings are secure, doors work properly, and that there are generally no dangerous conditions such as loose live wires or broken stairs. But to be liable, a landlord must have notice of these conditions, or they must have existed for a sufficient period of time such that a reasonable landlord should've, or would've, had notice and opportunity to correct the condition.

However, depending on how the injury occurred, a landlord's liability may end once a person enters a tenant's unit. If the injury is the result of a defective condition that only the landlord is authorized to correct, then even if the injury occurs inside a tenant's unit, a landlord could still be liable if they were given notice of, or should have known about, the condition that caused the injury, and did not provide a timely repair.

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