It is common for a tenant to feel like any injury that occurs on a rented property is the landlord’s responsibility. But when it comes to assigning blame for a personal injury accident in a rented home, there are often times when it is the tenant’s responsibility.
The overriding misconception is that the property owner is always responsible for any injuries that occur on their property. However, when you look closer at the laws in places like the Bronx and around New York State, you start to realize that assigning negligence is not always cut and dry.
The Landlord And Tenant Responsibilities
It may be surprising to find out that the laws that govern the relationship between tenants and landlords contain a great deal of common sense. For example, the landlord is responsible for the upkeep and safe maintenance of common areas such as hallways, while the tenants are responsible for maintaining their own space. If you occupy a space, whether you are the owner or tenant, you are responsible for keeping it safe.
What Does Keeping A Rented Property Safe Entail?
If the stairway in your rented home suddenly collapses, then most courts would rule that the landlord is responsible because inspecting a property prior to renting is a landlord’s responsibility. However, if you dropped something on a step and the step broke, then it is your responsibility as the tenant to alert the landlord immediately and take steps to make sure no one gets hurt. If someone falls on that broken step before you alert the landlord, then you could be found negligent for the injuries.
A property owner is obligated to maintain their premises and keep it safe, warn tenants of potential hazards prior to repairing those hazards and, make sure that all of the facilities on a property are safe and in proper working order. That means that routine maintenance for things like the furnace, the swimming pool, and the air conditioning system are the responsibility of the landlord.
It is important for tenants to remember that they have a responsibility for maintaining a clean and safe property as well. It is the tenant’s responsibility to make sure that walkways are clear, that property damage caused by the tenant’s actions is repaired or reported to the landlord immediately. Furthermore, any property maintenance that is the responsibility of the tenant as outlined in the lease is done as scheduled. Tenant’s should not assume that any personal injury that occurs is going to be the landlord’s responsibility, especially when the tenant created the dangerous situation.
Landlord Being Sued For A Death On His Property
On November 6, 2016, seven-year-old Thomas Rozmiarek died when he was pulled under in the family’s spa by a powerful spa pump. The family was in the backyard keeping an eye on Thomas when he was pulled under by the arm and pinned against the drain. His mother worked feverishly to release him while other family members called 911. At 1:38 in the morning, Thomas was pronounced dead.
The parents of Thomas Rozmiarek filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the property (it was a rented home), the company that made the pump, and the real estate company that introduced the Rozmiarek’s to the property owner. The parents contend that the version of the pump the owner bought and installed in 2011 did not have a safety device that was available on other models of the same pump that year. The parents also contend that there was a two-drain safety system that could have prevented the boy’s death, but the owner did not have that system installed in the spa.
The portion of the lawsuit against the manufacturer claims that the company could have put the safety device in all of its models, but did not do so. The lawsuit contends that outfitting every model of that pump with the safety device would not cost a great deal of money, especially when compared to the number of lives it would save.
This case is hardly clear cut, but it does provide a good example of how the landlord’s responsibility can be interpreted. It was the landlord who chose to buy and install the model of the pump that did not have the safety device on it, and it was the landlord who did not install the two-drain protective system in the spa. One of the questions that the court will have to contend with is whether or not a landlord is expected to be any more of an expert on spas than any other homeowner. But if there is a negligent party in this accident, it would most likely be the landlord.
Determining Responsibility For The Accident
A tenant would have a chance at winning a personal injury lawsuit against a landlord if:
- The landlord was directly responsible for daily maintenance and upkeep of the area where the accident occurred.
- The landlord knew about the dangerous conditions and did nothing to fix them.
- It is reasonable to expect that the landlord could take care of the problem.
- It was obvious that not fixing the problem would cause an accident.
- The negligence of the landlord was directly responsible for the real injuries sustained by the tenant or the tenant’s welcomed guest.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of room for interpretation in all of these conditions. For example, is it reasonable to expect a landlord to know that the sewer line that leads out of the house was going to rupture and cause the huge hole in the front yard that caused an injury? Is it reasonable to expect the landlord to dispose of a tree in the neighbor’s yard that is obviously poses a risk?
Many landlords do comprehensive visual inspections of properties before they rent them out to new tenants, and some landlords even bring in professional inspectors to do the job. But dangers hidden underground or problems hiding in corners behind walls are often not visible, even to an expert. If a landlord hires a certified inspector to look over a property and something still goes wrong, the tenant can expect the inspector’s report to show that the landlord took reasonable actions to prevent any accidents.
Tenant Questions To Ask Before Suing
If a tenant wants to sue their landlord for an accident that occurred on a rented property, then the tenant needs to ask some questions and be realistic with themselves. Could the landlord have known about the dangerous condition? Did the tenant cause the dangerous condition and not tell the landlord? Is it reasonable to expect the landlord to have known that such a dangerous condition existed?
Tenants can be sued in the same way landlords can for injuries sustained on rented properties. The best approach is for a tenant and landlord to work together to make sure that the rented property is always in serviceable shape and that all dangerous situations are taken care of immediately. If something does happen and an accident occurs, neither the landlord nor the tenant can always be certain as to who will have to take responsibility. Rather than taking chances, it is a better idea for both parties to make sure that the rented property is always safe to everyone who lives there, and for the visitors that are welcomed into the property.