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Premise liability: When your landlord is at fault for your injury

Landlords have a certain responsibility toward their residents to make certain that the premises of the apartment, townhouse or rental home are reasonably safe and free of obvious hazards.

A lot of landlords fail miserably in this area -- and tenants are the ones who end up suffering with massive medical bills.

Now, it's generally impossible to make someplace 100 percent safe against all accidents, so how can you tell when you're responsible for your own accident or your landlord is to blame?

Consider the following guidelines:

  1. The landlord isn't keeping the place fit for habitation. If the heating unit isn't working or the electricity is questionable, the landlord is responsible for those repairs. If you get injured because something catches fire due to a lack of maintenance, that's your landlord's responsibility.
  2. You warned the landlord of a specific problem in writing. Sometimes there are problems that aren't obvious. A rotted board on a set of steps, for example, might not be something that the landlord would have reason to know was in disrepair. However, once you notify you landlord, he or she had a duty to fix it in a timely manner. If a few weeks go by and you forget to skip that step while you're carrying groceries in and break a leg when you go through the floorboard, your landlord is probably liable.
  3. If you become the victim of a crime, your landlord may or may not be liable. If your landlord failed to do background checks on prospective tenants and allowed just anybody to move into the apartments, regardless of their criminal history, you could hold your landlord liable for any assault you suffered. Similarly, if you tell your landlord that you suspect drug activity in the apartment next to yours, you could hold the landlord liable if you're injured or threatened by either the tenants or one of their customers.

If you suspect that your landlord could be held responsible for your injuries through premises liability, an attorney can helop. Just like in a car accident, you may be due compensation not just for your injuries, but for any other losses -- such as relocation costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Source: FindLaw, "Ten Landlord Legal Mistakes to Avoid," accessed Nov. 14, 2017

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