What Happens if Someone Gets Hurt on Your Rental Property?

Who is responsible if someone is injured while on a rented property? Learn about your legal rights and responsibilities as a tenant or landlord, as well as how to avoid potential risks to create a safer living environment for everyone.

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
February 28, 2024
What Happens if Someone Gets Hurt on Your Rental Property?

Landlords and tenants both have important rights and responsibilities. Tenants have the right to live in a property that is safe and in good condition, and landlords have the responsibility to properly maintain the property and fix any hazards quickly.

But what happens if someone gets hurt on your rental property? Figuring out who is responsible can be complicated. Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on the details of what happened. Injuries can range from minor to very serious, and there can be big legal and financial problems for both the tenant and landlord.

In this article, we'll look at the different kinds of injuries that can happen, and we'll discuss how to figure out who is liable. On the proactive front, we'll give practical tips to prevent accidents in the first place, and you'll learn important facts to protect your rights. Let's dive in and make sense of injury liability for landlords and tenants!

Is a landlord responsible for tenant injuries?

In short, yes — landlords can be responsible for injuries that occur to tenants on their rental property. Landlords have certain legal duties to reasonably maintain their properties and provide safe living conditions. If a landlord fails to fulfill these responsibilities and it directly results in a tenant injury, they may face liability. 

Determining exactly what constitutes a landlord's "reasonable duty" versus tenant responsibility gets complicated. The decision in personal injury cases weighs many factors on both sides.

Landlords' responsibilities for tenant safety

As a landlord, confirming the safety of your rental property is a key responsibility of being a property owner. You are legally obligated to maintain a safe environment for tenants and visitors, which includes both individual units and common areas. This responsibility covers a spectrum of actions to prevent injuries and minimize the risk of accidents on your property.

Confirming property safety and compliance

 A key aspect of landlord duties is providing reasonably safe premises free from known dangers. This involves:

  • Regular inspections and maintenance: Conduct inspections of all areas, including apartments, corridors, stairs, and parking lots, to identify and address potential hazards. Landlords should promptly perform maintenance tasks to repair issues such as broken steps, leaky roofs, or faulty wiring.
  • Common area safety: High-traffic zones like stairwells, hallways, and parking areas must be kept clear of obstacles and hazards. Verify that you have proper lighting and repair any damages quickly to prevent accidents.
  • Security measures: In areas prone to criminal activity, you should implement security measures, such as secure locks, surveillance systems, and, if necessary, security personnel. Stay informed about local crime patterns and take appropriate precautions for tenant protection.

Legal compliance and negligence prevention

Avoiding negligence involves more than just regular maintenance and security enhancements. Landlords must also:

  • Comply with housing codes and regulations: Follow local laws that set minimum safety standards for rental properties, covering fire safety, structural integrity, and environmental hazards. Ignorance of these regulations is not an excuse for non-compliance, and a landlord's duty to protect tenants.
  • Address known hazards promptly: If you are aware of any specific risks, such as loose railings or tripping hazards, you must take immediate action to mitigate these issues. If you fail to take care of issues, it can lead to liability for any injuries that occur as a result.
  • Foreseeability of harm: A landlord's liability often hinges on their knowledge of potential risks and their actions (or inaction) in response. Proactively identifying and mitigating hazards through regular inspections and maintenance is key, or the landlord may be held liable. This includes evaluating the cost, the feasibility of repairs, and the potential severity of harm to take reasonable steps in preventing foreseeable injuries.

Tenants' responsibilities

While landlords have a legal duty to maintain safe premises, tenants also have responsibilities that can impact liability in the event of an injury. Failure to fulfill these responsibilities may result in the tenant being partially or fully responsible for their own injuries.

Proper use of the rental property

Tenants must use the rental property reasonably and responsibly. This means not engaging in activities or behaviors that could damage the property or create unsafe conditions.

If a tenant misuses or damages the property, leading to an injury, they may be partially or fully responsible for the consequences. For example, if a tenant decides to host a large party and overcrowds the rental unit, leading to structural damage and injuries, the tenant may be found negligent for their actions.

Additionally, if a tenant engages in prohibited activities according to their lease or rental agreement, such as using a grill or open flame on a balcony, and this leads to an injury, they may be held liable.

Reporting maintenance issues promptly

Tenants need to promptly report any maintenance issues or potential hazards to the landlord. This includes reporting leaks, broken appliances, or any other issues that could pose a safety hazard.

Failure to report these issues on time may impact the tenant's ability to hold the landlord liable for any resulting injuries. The tenant's negligence may reduce or eliminate the grounds for landlord liability.

If a tenant notices a loose railing but fails to inform the landlord and later falls due to the faulty railing, one could view the tenant's failure to report the issue as contributory negligence.

Types of injuries

Injuries on rental properties can vary in severity and type, each with potential consequences and damages.

Slip-and-fall accidents

Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common injuries on rental properties. These accidents can occur due to poor lighting, uneven surfaces, wet floors, or debris in common areas.

These accidents can result in different injuries, from minor sprains and bruises to more severe injuries like head trauma, broken bones, or spinal cord injuries. Slip and fall accidents can also result in significant medical expenses, lost wages, and ongoing rehabilitation or therapy costs.

In severe cases, permanent disabilities or long-term care may be required, further increasing the financial burden on the injured party.

Fires and burns

Landlords are responsible for making sure that rental properties have proper fire safety measures, such as working fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and marked evacuation routes.

A landlord's failure to provide these safeguards or address fire hazards promptly can lead to fires and burn injuries for tenants and visitors. In addition to physical injuries, fires can also result in significant property damage, displacement, and emotional trauma for those affected.

Criminal acts on the premises

In some cases, landlords may be responsible for injuries resulting from criminal acts on the property if they fail to provide adequate security measures.

This can include incidents such as assaults, robberies, or other violent crimes that occur due to inadequate lighting, lack of secure entry points, or a failure to address known security risks.

Injuries resulting from criminal acts can range from physical harm, such as assault or battery, to emotional distress and psychological trauma. If the landlord is extremely negligent, they might have to pay extra punitive damages.

Toxic exposures

Exposure to toxic substances, such as mold, asbestos, or lead paint, can cause serious health issues for tenants, including respiratory problems, neurological damage, and even long-term illnesses like cancer.

Toxic exposures can be particularly harmful to vulnerable populations, such as children or individuals with compromised immune systems, making it imperative for landlords to take measures to identify and mitigate these risks.

Landlords may be liable if they fail to address these hazards or promptly disclose known risks to tenants.

Compensatory damages

If a landlord is liable for a tenant's injuries, the tenant may be entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages can include:

  • Medical expenses: It covers the cost of medical treatment, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and any ongoing care required due to the injury. It also includes doctor visits, surgeries, medications, and assistive devices or equipment expenses.
  • Lost wages: If the injury stops the tenant from working, they might get money to make up for the wages they've lost, both past and future. This includes income from employment and potential lost earning capacity if the injury results in a permanent disability.
  • Pain and suffering: Tenants may receive compensation for the emotional and physical pain and suffering caused by the injury, including physical discomfort, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish.
  • Property damage: If the incident damages or destroys the tenant's personal property, such as in a fire or flood, they may receive compensation for the value of those items.
  • Future care costs: Tenants may receive damages to cover the anticipated costs of future care and assistance for severe injuries requiring ongoing medical treatment or long-term care.
  • Loss of consortium: In some cases, spouses or family members of the injured tenant may receive money for the emotional suffering and loss of companionship caused by the injury.

Landlord's insurance

For landlords, buying insurance coverage is necessary for protection against potential liabilities and reducing the financial consequences of accidents at your rental properties. A landlord insurance policy typically encompasses two key components:

1. Liability insurance coverage

General liability insurance is a staple for most property owners, offering protection against financial losses stemming from accidents or injuries that occur on your property. This coverage helps with the costs associated with legal defense, settlements, or court awards following incidents.

The amount of liability coverage required can vary significantly depending on the scope of your rental operations. Consulting with a knowledgeable insurance broker can help you obtain coverage tailored to your needs with the right amount of limits to protect your financial assets.

Some landlords seek broader protection and buy additional policies such as umbrella insurance or specific coverages tailored to unique risks like environmental hazards or criminal activities on the premises.

2. Property insurance coverage

Property insurance is part of a landlord's insurance policy. It protects the physical assets of your rental business, including the dwelling itself and any structures on the property. Property coverage provides compensation for damages or losses resulting from a wide array of events, including but not limited to fire, storms, theft, and vandalism. 

Confirm that your policy covers the replacement value of the property rather than its market value to protect your investment against unforeseen disasters. Landlords should also consider additional clauses or riders for specific items or scenarios not covered under standard property insurance, like flood insurance.

Risk management strategies

Insurance gives you protection if you get sued and have to pay compensation. But, you can reduce your chances of personal injury lawsuits by implementing risk management strategies. Taking proactive steps can reduce hazards, demonstrate diligence in maintaining safe conditions, and strengthen legal defenses if personal injury lawsuits arise. Here are three key components of a strong risk management approach for rental housing:

1. Routine inspections and maintenance

Regular inspections and prompt repairs are key for managing risks as a landlord. Routinely checking rental units and common areas can help identify possible hazards before they cause injuries. If you find hazards or issues, it's important to fix them through repairs or other solutions immediately.

Keeping detailed inspections and maintenance records shows your efforts to keep the property safe, which can help defend against negligence claims. Creating a maintenance program that includes regular inspections, preventative work, and quick repairs can reduce risks and provide a strong defense if there are serious injury claims.

2. Documentation and record-keeping

Maintaining good documentation and records is important for landlords to protect themselves if there is an injury claim. This includes keeping copies of lease agreements, messages with tenants, repair requests and records, inspection reports, and other relevant paperwork.

Clear and complete records show a landlord's efforts to maintain a safe property and respond promptly to tenant concerns. These can serve as evidence in legal disputes or liability claims, demonstrating the landlord's diligence in addressing potential hazards.

Landlords should also consider keeping a detailed log of any reported incidents or injuries on the property, including witness statements, photographs, and other relevant information. This documentation helps contextualize the circumstances around an injury and defend against claims.

3. Tenant screening and education

Thoroughly screening tenants is another way for landlords to manage risks. The tenant screening process should include background checks, references, and discussions about how prospective tenants plan to use the property. This can help identify any red flags or potential issues.

It's also important to verify that tenants understand and will uphold their responsibilities related to property maintenance and safety. Make sure to clearly communicate these expectations and duties during the screening process and within the lease agreement.

Additionally, providing tenants with ongoing education promotes safe practices. Supply tenants with written materials that cover safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and instructions on properly reporting maintenance issues. Encourage tenants to prioritize safety by sending regular reminders about protocols and potential hazards.

Strong tenant screening and consistent safety education help foster a culture of injury prevention. When landlords and tenants work collaboratively, they can be effective at recognizing risks and addressing issues promptly.

Tenant rights and pursuing a claim

If a landlord's negligence leads to a tenant's injury on the rental property, the tenant can claim compensation. Following specific steps and requirements increases the chances of a successful claim, including:

1. Notice requirements

In most places, tenants must give written notice to the landlord about the injury and how it happened within a certain period. These notice rules can usually be found either in local laws or the rental agreement. If tenants do not give proper, timely notice, they may lose their right to claim against the landlord.

The notice should include details like the date and place of the incident, a description of the injury as well as any unsafe conditions that caused it, and a statement saying the tenant plans to seek compensation from the landlord.

2. Statute of limitations

Every state has time limits called statutes of limitations for filing a personal injury claim. These deadlines usually range from one to six years, depending on the type of injury and situation.

The claim may be rejected if a tenant fails to file it by the statute of limitations deadline, even if the landlord was clearly negligent. Tenants should know the time limit that applies to them and act quickly to file on time. Missing the statute of limitations can ruin a tenant's case, as courts strictly enforce these time limits.

Speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer or landlord-tenant attorney can help make sure you take all legal actions by the required deadlines.

3. Evidence gathering and investigation

To support a claim against a landlord, tenants should collect as much evidence as possible to document their injuries and what caused them. This can include:

  • Photographs or videos: Visual proof of the injury scene, unsafe conditions, and visible injuries can be very important to show the landlord's negligence and how serious the incident was.
  • Witness statements: Written accounts from people who saw the incident or knew about the unsafe conditions can back up the tenant's story and provide more details.
  • Medical records: Detailed records of the injuries, treatment received, and any ongoing care needed can link the landlord's negligence directly to the damages.
  • Correspondence or reports: Copies of any messages or reports made to the landlord about maintenance issues or hazards can show the landlord knew about potential risks but, nevertheless, the landlord failed to take action.
  • Expense documentation: Keeping receipts for any costs from the injury, like medical bills, lost wages, or property damage, can help calculate fair compensation.

4. Negotiation and potential litigation

Negotiations between the tenant and the landlord's insurance company often resolve many rental injury claims. The tenant's lawyer will present evidence and argue for fair payment based on the damages. Negotiations involve offers going back and forth as each side tries to agree on a settlement amount.

Tenants need to possess realistic expectations and an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their case to negotiate effectively. If negotiating doesn't lead to a fair settlement, the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord. This process is complex, and the outcome depends on the facts and evidence.

Lawsuits can involve many steps like evidence sharing, questioning witnesses under oath, and ultimately, a trial where both sides present their case to a judge or jury. When deciding to go to court, one should carefully consider costs, chances of winning, and whether it's worth the time and effort.

Personal injury on rental property

If injuries happen on rental properties, determining liability requires looking at the specific situation, the actions of both parties, and relevant laws. Though messy at times, this process aims to uphold safety and accountability fairly.

Ultimately, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Tenants and landlords alike share in a communal duty to promote safe conditions. Open dialogue, proactive maintenance, and fulfillment of basic responsibilities help to minimize risk and conflict.

Landlords and tenants can work together actively to create secure housing. A shared commitment to this goal benefits all involved, leading to positive relationships and experiences.

Is landlord responsible for tenant injury? FAQs

What is the "landlord not liable" clause?

The "landlord not liable" clause is a provision in a lease that states the landlord is not responsible for any injuries or damages that occur on the rental property. This clause tries to release the landlord from liability, but there are situations where tenants can still sue the landlord or property manager.

What is negligent damage?

Negligent damage is harm to property caused by carelessness or failure to take proper precautions. It differs from accidental damage, which occurs unexpectedly, in that negligent damage results from a lack of due diligence to prevent harm. In rental properties, tenants may be held liable for such damage, potentially facing deductions from their security deposit for repairs.

Is there any way for a landlord to be fully exempt from injury liability claims?

There is no way for a landlord to be completely exempt from liability for injuries on their rental property. They cannot waive certain legal duties regarding safety and repairs. However, liability waivers and insurance can provide some protections.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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