FAQs – Landlord Liability / Insurance Re. Tenant Injuries

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on October 24, 2006 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

By law, a landlord is required to maintain and repair his / her rental property, in order to protect himself / herself from being held liable for tenant injuries.

Ques. Can a landlord be held liable if a tenant or a visitor suffers injury on his / her rental property?
Yes, a landlord can be held responsible for an injury on rental premises, if the landlord or his / her property manager have been negligent in maintaining the property, which laxity has resulted in their tenant or a visitor to the property hurting or injuring themselves. However, the following must be proven if a landlord is to be held liable:

  1. The landlord is responsible for maintenance of the rental premises, especially the area where the accident occurred and caused the injury.
  2. The landlord did not carry out the repairs or fixed the problem, even though the procedure was not difficult or unreasonably expensive.
  3. The accident was foreseeable, with the serious injury being the probable outcome of not carrying out identified repairs or fixing the problem.
  4. Sheer negligence on part of the landlord, including failure to fulfil his / her responsibilities resulted in the tenant injuring himself / herself.
  5. The tenant has been genuinely and grievously hurt.

For example, the broken front door step that should, but has not been fixed results in the tenant falling and twisting / spraining / breaking his / her ankle. If the tenant can prove the following, then it is the landlord who will be held liable for the injury:

  1. Part of a common area, it is the landlord’s responsibility to repair the broken steps.
  2. As well, it has to be proven the broken steps were not a recent occurrence, but the landlord has failed to take reasonable measures to maintain the steps for days, or weeks, or months.
  3. A minor inexpensive job, repairing the steps could have been easily carried out.
  4. As, falling on broken steps is foreseeable and highly likely, the probable outcome of broken steps is serious injury.
  5. A tenant must prove that the fall and resultant injury are due to falling on the broken steps.
  6. The tenant is genuinely hurt, such as, breaking a bone or tearing a muscle.

In such cases, a tenant is allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability and disfigurement, and emotional distress. Damage to personal property that results from faulty maintenance or unsafe conditions can also be claimed, when a landlord fails to carry out serious repairs.

Ques. Is there any way for landlords to minimize financial losses related to repairs and maintenance?
Many problems can be avoided by maintaining rental property in excellent condition. For example:

  1. It is useful for landlords to use written checklists for inspecting premises and fixing problems before a new tenant moves in.
  2. Landlords should encourage tenants to report immediately safety or security concerns, such as, plumbing, heating, broken doors or steps, whether inside the unit, or in the common area i.e. hallways and parking garages.
  3. A written log of all tenant complaints and repair requests, including details, as to how and when the problems were fixed should be kept by landlords.
  4. All urgent repairs should be carried out, as soon as possible, and all safety issues should be taken care of within 24-hours. Tenants should be kept informed, as to when and how, the repairs will be carried out.
  5. Tenants should be provided with a twice yearly checklist to report over-looked potential safety hazards or maintenance problems. The same checklist should be used by the landlord to personally inspect all rental units once a year.

As well, clearly set out responsibilities for repair and maintenance in leases and rental agreements.

Ques. Will insurance help protect a rental property business?
A well-constructed insurance policy will serve to protect rental properties from losses caused by natural / unnatural causes, including fire, storms, burglary, and vandalism. Typically, earthquake and flood insurance are separate and not included in property insurance policies.

A comprehensive general liability (CGL) policy provides liability insurance, covering injuries or losses suffered by others as a result of defective conditions on the property. Equally important, liability insurance covers the cost (mostly legal bills) of defending personal injury lawsuits

Tips For Choosing Insurance

  1. Purchase enough coverage to protect the value of the property and assets.
  2. Be sure the policy covers not only physical injury but also libel, slander, discrimination, unlawful and retaliatory eviction, and invasion of privacy suffered by tenants and guests.
  3. Carry liability insurance on all vehicles used for business purposes, including the property manager’s car or truck if used on the job.

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