Houman Fakhimi

Landlord Liabilities

When tenants or their guests are injured as a result of landlord negligence, they may have cause for legal action to recover their losses.

The Orange County injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, know landlords have a responsibility to maintain their rental properties in reasonably safe condition and good repair for their tenants. When they fail to do that and someone is injured as a result, those who are hurt can seek damages.

Basically what the injured party needs to show is:

  • It was landlord’s responsibility to maintain a certain part of the premises
  • Landlord failed to take reasonable action to mitigate the danger
  • Taking that action or giving an adequate warning would not have been an undue hardship to landlord
  • It was foreseeable that an injury or harm would occur if the problem was not addressed
  • The landlord’s negligence in failing to act caused tenant’s injury
  • Tenant suffered substantial injury warranting monetary compensation

It’s not enough for a tenant to simply prove he was injured on landlord’s property. There has to be proof the landlord was negligent and that this negligence proximately resulted in plaintiff’s injury.

Some examples of instances in which a landlord may be found liable to compensate a tenant or guest for injuries:

  • A sidewalk leading up to the front door is cracked and uneven. Tenants have complained, but no action is taken. An elderly resident trips and falls and breaks his hip. The landlord could be held liable for failure to fix the sidewalk.
  • One tenant in an apartment building has a large, aggressive dog. Other tenants have complained, but the landlord takes no action. One day, the dog bites a small child, causing severe facial injuries. The landlord could be held liable for that child’s injuries.
  • A landlord fails to maintain the electrical systems in an older structure. As a result of faulty wiring, a fire breaks out and two people die of smoke inhalation. The landlord could be liable for this.
  • The two years, a rash of armed robberies have occurred within a two block radius of an apartment complex – with two even occurring in the parking lot. In spite of this, landlord fails to install cameras, hire extra security or make sure the parking lot is well-lit. One evening, a female tenant exiting her vehicle near the entrance to her apartment is approached by two armed men, robbed, beaten and sexually assaulted. Landlord may be liable under the legal principle of negligent security.
  • A third-story balcony of a high-rise condo building is not built to code. One day while tenant is outside on the balcony with a friend, the balcony collapses underneath their feet, causing both to suffer severe injuries. Landlord may be held liable to cover their losses.

The individual facts of each case will dictate whether it’s possible for a plaintiff to recover damages.

Landlord Responsibility for Property Safety

Generally speaking, landlords are responsible under California law for most areas of the property, and not solely those located in common areas.

They may be responsible to maintain or address:

  • Latent defects: These are conditions about which landlord is aware, but tenant is not and the danger is not obvious. These may be conditions like a defective window or a poorly-constructed balcony. Landlords have a duty to address these issues or, at the very least, warn tenants and/or guests.
  • Negligent repairs: Repair of property has to be done on a reasonable timeline and to the proper specifications under the law. If a landlord hires an unlicensed contractor for certain jobs and that individual does a poor job, resulting in injury, landlord may be liable to pay for those injuries.
  • Common areas: Places like hallways, stairways, parking lots and club houses have to be maintained in a safe condition for use by tenants and their guests.
  • Public use: If a landlord opens all or part of his property up for public use, landlord may be liable for any defects or dangers that cause injury to those lawfully on site.
  • Furnished dwellings: If furnished dwellings are leased on a short-term basis (fewer than three months) landlord may be liable for any dangers or defects on site – even if the landlord wasn’t aware of the danger. That means landlord owes a duty to regularly inspect the property for defects.
  • Attractive nuisance: While most landlord liability is limited to those who were on site or on portions of the site properly, there may be certain potentially dangerous features that are known to be attractive to children. This would be something like a swimming pool. A landlord may post signs warning children to remain away from the pool area without an adult present, but if the lock to the gate is broken or access is otherwise unrestricted, he or she could still be liable for any resulting injury or death. Although we all have an inherent duty to shield ourselves from danger that is open or obvious, children aren’t held to that same standard – especially if they are very young. Landlords owe a duty to make sure they are taking into account foreseeable dangers to children and addressing them.
Vicarious Liability of Landlord

While landlords are generally not responsible for hazards created by tenants, there may be some exceptions for which they could be held vicariously liable.

An example might be failure to maintain or control dangerous activity in common areas. Alternatively, if the landlord knows of a nuisance created by a tenant and fails to address it, landlord may be liable for any injuries that result from that nuisance.

Contact the injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, by calling (714) 705-6701 or (909) 859-0280. Serving the Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.