Suppose you’re walking into your new apartment, excited to move into your new residence and make it your own, when you trip over ripped carpet or fall through a broken step and suffer injuries like a broken leg or wrist. Or suppose that that incident happened to a friend or family member who was visiting you. Who is responsible for those injuries? Can you recover compensation from your landlord? Can your friend or family member do likewise? Or are you on the hook in both situations? We hope this post will help answer some of those questions.
The implied warranty of habitability
Under Massachusetts law, landlords imply that the property being rented to a tenant is safe and habitable. Therefore, upon taking possession, your apartment should be free of dangerous defects that could cause you harm. But that duty to maintain habitability continues throughout the course of your lease. This means that your landlord needs to take actions to inform you of the dangerous conditions and remedy them quickly.
If the defects aren’t known by the landlord upon your taking possession of the residence, though, then you’ll need to demonstrate that he or she had actual notice of the defect once it became an issue. Since your landlord can’t really enter your premises at any time without your consent, you’ll have to show that the landlord was told of the issue, he or she saw the defect, or the Board of Health or a similar agency put him or her on notice of the defect.
So, if you’re injured by a defect within your unit that rendered it uninhabitable, then you may be able to pursue personal injury damages against your landlord based on a breach of the warranty of habitability. It’s important to note that the warranty of habitability applies to both the tenant and guests, meaning that your family member or friend who is harmed here could also take legal action.
Another option is to pursue a claim under the theory of negligent maintenance. This is often the strongest foundation of a premises liability lawsuit. In most of these instances, a landlord has failed to maintain common areas in a fashion that ensures that they are safe. Examples of negligent maintenance may include steps with worn or missing treads, icy sidewalks and parking lots, broken sidewalks and stairs, improper swimming pool precautions, torn carpet, and worn water pipes and exposed electrical wires.
To succeed on a premises liability claim utilizing negligent maintenance, you’ll have to show that your landlord owed you a duty of care and that he or she breached that duty of care. Since you’re a tenant, then you’re an invitee on the property, meaning that your landlord owes you a duty of reasonable care. This means that he or she has to take action to inspect the property, warn you of dangerous property conditions and take reasonable steps to remedy them. If he or she fails to do so and knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, then legal action is warranted. This holds true for guests, as well.
Let a skilled legal team handle the details
Premises liability claims can be riddled with nuances and details that can change the trajectory of the case. That’s a lot of pressure that you shouldn’t have to deal with as you try to recover from your injuries. Fortunately, you can have a strong legal advocate by your side to help you find for accountability and compensation. If you think that you situation might warrant legal action, then now may be the best time for you to reach out to one of these advocates to determine how best to move forward.