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Liability for Tenant Injuries and Insurance for Landlords

Landlord-tenant laws are different in every state. They also differ between municipalities. Additionally, a landlord and a tenant may have duties they agree to in their lease agreement.

This article will address some of the most common concerns related to landlord liability for a tenant's injuries.

For the laws specific to your state, see landlord-tenant statutes state-by-state.

If a Tenant or Visitor Is Injured on a Rental Property, Is the Landlord Financially Liable for the Injuries?

Landlords have a duty to:

  • Properly maintain common areas
  • Warn of hidden dangers which they are (or should be) aware of
  • Provide premises that are safely habitable by the tenant
  • Not interfere with the tenant's right to quiet enjoyment of the property

If a tenant or visitor is injured, a landlord is only liable for the injuries if the landlord's negligence or intentional disregard directly caused the injuries.

For example, say there is a broken step on the front stairwell of your apartment, so you use a properly functioning back stairwell that is well lit. You fall and injure yourself on the back stairwell.

In this case, the landlord's negligence is not the direct cause of your injuries and the landlord is likely not liable for damages. If you fell on the broken front stairwell, you would have a better case.

(That said, the landlord still has a duty to make the premises safe by repairing the front stairwell to prevent future injuries.)

Proving Liability

In order to hold the landlord liable, the following four elements of tort law must be proven by the tenant:

  • Duty: The landlord had a duty to fix the dangerous condition within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Breach: The landlord failed to meet his or her duty to address the dangerous condition.
  • Causation: The cause of the injury was the failure to repair the dangerous condition and the landlord's negligence directly and foreseeably caused the injury.
  • Damages: Injuries (damages) resulted from the landlord's behavior.

Take the example of the broken stairwell. If the tenant had been injured on the broken step of the front stairwell, which had been broken for several months, the tenant could prove:

  • The landlord had the duty to fix the problem but did not.
  • Fixing the problem wouldn't have been unreasonably expensive.
  • If the landlord had fixed the condition, the tenant likely would not have been injured.
  • The injury was serious and foreseeable.
  • The failure to fix or warn of the broken step directly caused the injuries.


Are There Insurance Policies That Cover Landlords for a Tenant's Injuries?

Yes. Just as there are insurance policies that pay landlords for property damage, there are landlord insurance policies that protect the landlord from financial liability should a tenant (or guest) become injured on the property.

While they are not cheap, landlord general liability policies are highly recommended. This is particularly true for owners of multiple-unit properties. These insurance policies cover financial liability should a tenant be injured by a defective property condition. The insurance company will also provide an attorney to defend the landlord should the renter bring a lawsuit.

A landlord will want an insurance policy large enough to cover the value of the property, as well as medical costs for tenant injuries. When searching for insurance, the insurance agent will present different coverage packages. Consider policies that cover common claims brought by tenants, including:

  • Personal injury
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Wrongful eviction

What Kind of Damages Can a Tenant Receive From a Landlord?

If a landlord is liable for injuries, a tenant can sue for:

  • Medical bills (present and future)
  • Lost earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Emotional distress (must usually be accompanied by physical harm)
  • Personal property damage (for example, a cell phone that broke during a fall), though in some cases a landlord can contractually limit liability in this context by requiring a tenant to have their own property insurance.

Are Landlords Liable for Injuries to Tenants and Visitors That Occur Inside a Rental Unit?

It depends on whether the injury resulted from a defect the landlord had a duty to repair, that the landlord knew (or reasonably shown have known) about, or had received reasonable notice of.

Absent any negligence as discussed above, landlords are only responsible for the maintenance of common areas, warning of hidden dangers that they know about, and making dwelling units habitable. What happens inside a renter's home is usually the renter's responsibility.

What Is the Best Way for a Landlord to Minimize Lawsuits for Tenant Injuries?

As a landlord, the best way to avoid financial liability for injuries on your property is to keep your property in great shape. If you haven't done so already, create a written checklist and walk through the common areas as well as tenant units to identify problems. Keep a written record of all reports of problems, and when and how the problems were resolved.

No matter where problems are located, encourage tenants and employees to report security or safety issues immediately.

In addition, responsibilities for repair and maintenance should also be in the lease or rental agreement. For example, a landlord may state in the lease that the tenant is responsible for the repair of their own appliances. A clear description of procedures to follow when repairs are needed can be helpful in avoiding lawsuits.

Get Legal Help to Better Understand Landlord Liability for Tenant Injuries

Whether you're an injured tenant or a landlord facing a potential lawsuit, seek the advice of a local landlord-tenant lawyer who can explain your state's landlord-tenant laws and represent you in court, if necessary.

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