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Premises Liability

Liability of Tenants and Landlords

There are situations in which it might be advisable to include both a tenant and landlord as defendants in a premises liability suit. For example, if you are injured in a store at a shopping center and the storeowner is a tenant in the shopping center, which is actually owned by a separate landlord. Another example is if you are injured while visiting a friend's apartment. Generally, a landlord owes tenants a duty to use reasonable care and a duty to tenants and visitors to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. If you have questions about the potential liability of a landlord or tenant, contact an experienced premises liability attorney.

Landlord Liability

If a tenant has visitors, the landlord owes the same duty to the visitor as to the tenant. In most states, a landlord has a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep common areas in a reasonably safe condition for their intended use. A common area is an area used by more than one tenant, such as a parking lot, sidewalk, hallway and steps. If the landlord retains control over the common area, he or she could be liable for any injuries that occur there.

If a landlord creates a dangerous condition and then leases the property to a tenant, he or she is liable for injuries suffered because of the dangerous condition. Depending on the state, a tenant's social guests are either treated as invitees or licensees with respect to the landlord. A landlord owes invitees a duty of ordinary care with respect to the areas of the property over which the landlord retains control, such as a common hallway, entry or stairway.

If a plaintiff's premises liability claim is based on a landlord's failure to repair a broken or defective condition, the plaintiff must prove that the landlord knew or, by using reasonable care, should have known of the condition and that the landlord had enough time to fix the condition. If the plaintiff cannot prove actual or constructive notice, the plaintiff will be unable to establish that the landlord acted negligently.

Generally, a landlord does not have a duty to protect tenants or their visitors or employees from criminal attacks by third parties on the landlord's property. However, some states recognize a special relationship between landlords and tenants, which require the landlord to take reasonable steps to protect tenants from criminal conduct by third parties that is foreseeable.

Public Purpose Exception - When premises are leased for a public or semipublic purpose and the premises are unsafe for the intended purpose and the landlord knows or should know of the conditions, the landlord is liable for injuries caused by the unsafe condition. The public purpose exception does not apply if the landlord had a reason to believe that the unsafe condition would be fixed before business customers would be allowed to enter by the tenant or if the premises were in good condition when leased and the tenant was responsible for repairing and maintaining the premises under the terms of the lease.

Tenant Liability

The tenant, and not the landlord, is liable for a tenant's torts, and the landlord is not liable for injuries sustained by a person on the premises that were caused by the tenant's actions. If the tenant caused a dangerous or defective condition that injured a visitor, the landlord is not liable for the visitor's injuries. The tenant is liable for injuries caused by the tenant's negligence, such as negligently making repairs, failing to keep the floor clear of obstacles and failing to provide adequate lighting.

A tenant is also liable for injuries caused by defects in areas that are within the tenant's, and not the landlord's control. For example, if the landlord owns land that he or she leases to a tenant and the tenant constructs a building and a person is injured because of defects in the structure, the tenant is liable for the person's injuries.


If you are injured on property that a tenant possesses, but that the landlord actually owns, you may be able to bring a premises liability claim against both parties. To learn more about the potential liability of landlords and tenants, speak to an experienced premises liability attorney.

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