If you are a property owner, you have many issues you have to be aware of legally. One of these is the property owner’s legal duty to prevent injury.
If you have tenants who are elderly, disabled, or prone to accident, this becomes especially concerning to you as a property owner, as you may wonder how much liability is involved in such cases.
The “Reasonable Safety” Clause
In general, as a landlord or property owner, you have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care for the safety of your tenants. If you find any dangerous conditions, you must repair these as soon as possible to avoid personal injury. This carries with it also a responsibility to hold regular inspections of the property, so that you will know if such a condition exists.
Warn or Repair
Once you locate a dangerous situation or become aware of it, you are required by Massachusetts law to do one of two things:
- Repair the portion of the property or the issue which is causing the dangerous situation to exist.
- Warn the tenants of the possibility of injuries which they could suffer due to the condition, so that they may take proper extra steps to protect themselves.
Liability of Property Owners
If someone is injured while on the property, you may be held liable for damages, depending upon the situation and whether or not you warned the person of the situation, attempted to repair it if possible, and whether or not the person was trespassing.
Licensees, invitees, and trespassers
The law recognizes three categories of individuals involving personal injury cases on property owned by someone else.
Licensees are people who are on your properties for a particular reason, such as a business function. Landlords have a reasonable responsibility to ensure that they are safe but they do not have the responsibility that they do with invitees.
Invitees are people invited by the tenant. Again, you have limited control over these people or their actions. Therefore, you would likely have less liability toward them than you would your tenants. However, you should advise tenants to warn visitors of any potential hazards and try as the landlord to keep the area as safe as possible for everyone.
Trespassers are not invited, therefore, they are breaking the law and the law will not look as favorable on them, nor have the degree of empathy toward them which it would a resident. You may have limited or no liability to such individuals. However, it is important to know where Massachusetts law stands on such issues.
As a property owner you have the responsiblity to keep your tenants safe from hazards that may cause injury. If you have any questions as a property owner, please contact our office and speak with one of our attorneys.