If you are like most people, you probably assume that if you or your guest slips and falls and sustains an injury on rented property that the landlord can be held liable for the injury. While this may be true in some instances, it isn't always true. Sometimes, the responsibility falls on the renter. Other times, no one is considered at fault. Find out how to tell who (if anyone) is legally responsible and what to do if this situation happens to you.
What is a slip-and-fall claim?
A slip-and-fall claim is made against the person legally responsible for maintaining property such as the stairs or walkway, but that's not the only requirement for making a claim. The responsible party must also have demonstrated negligence. That means the slip and fall must occur because someone—in this case either you or your landlord—did not keep the area in safe condition and it caused the fall.
What is the landlord's responsibility?
The landlord must maintain his or her property so that it is safe and poses no hazards. Typically, this means the premises must be up to federal and municipal code both inside and outside your rental unit. The landlord is responsible for the physical structure of the home or apartment. That means he or she must fix broken stairs, repair railings, and take care of any other structure that poses a health or safety hazard. However, in order to be found negligent, the landlord must be made aware of the condition and fail to repair it. If your steps are loose from regular wear and tear, but you never notified your landlord, you generally cannot hold him or her responsible for an injury if you or a guest slips and falls.
So how can the tenant be held responsible for a slip and fall?
This can be a tricky situation, but there are some instances that are very clear. If as a tenant you are responsible for snow removal from your walkway and driveway, then you can be held responsible for any slips and falls that occur because you did not remove the ice or snow. That means if you put off cleaning off the steps and your friend drops by and falls when he enters your home, you may be held responsible for his injuries. Other instances might include if you caused damage to pipes and they subsequently leaked and caused someone to slip and fall or you damaged other property that later caused you or someone else to fall.
How can no one be liable?
If you or one of your guests slips and falls, but the cause of the fall was not due to negligence by either you or the landlord, no one is liable for the slip and fall. For example, if hornets build a nest in the eaves of the home and neither the tenant (you) nor the landlord is aware of the nest, but buzzing hornets cause a guest to slip and fall on the stairs, no one is at fault. Because neither the tenant nor the landlord were aware of the nest, they were not negligent.
What should you do if you slip and fall and sustain an injury?
Regardless of who (if anyone) is liable for the injuries, there are some things the injured party should do to protect his or her interests.
Seek medical attention right away. This documents the incident, even if the injured person does not need serious medical intervention right away. He or she may experience symptoms later as a result of the injury. The documentation will prove valuable if he or she decides to file a claim.
Take photos of the conditions. This is also an important part of documenting the incident. This should include clear photos of the exact location where the accident occurred and any conditions that contributed to the fall, such as snow and ice or broken stairs or railings.
Notify the property owner. Put the notification in writing and include as many details as possible.
Contact a slip-and-fall attorney. He or she can help the injured party determine who is liable for the fall and guide him or her in the steps that must be taken to file a claim.
If you or a guest slips and falls in your rented home, avoid making bold claims that the landlord is responsible. Contact an attorney through a website like http://www.putnamlieb.com to find the legal advice you need.