When is a landlord responsible for your personal injuries?
The relationship between a landlord and a tenant is a contractual legal relationship that entails certain duties that the parties owe to one another. There are certain circumstances where if a tenant becomes injured on the property, the landlord may be held liable for the injury under what is known as premises liability or negligence security law in Georgia.
If you are a tenant who has become injured on the residential or commercial property you are renting, a premises liability attorney will be able to help you determine whether you have a case.
Landlord’s legal duty to tenants
Georgia landlords have a legal responsibility to keep their tenants safe. They are required by law to maintain their rental properties in order to keep them safe from certain types of hazards, and they should conduct regular inspections in order to make sure that new hazards do not occur.
When has a landlord breached that duty?
A landlord can’t be expected to know of, or remedy, every hazard present within a property. What it comes down to is what is and is not reasonable under the circumstances. The law in Georgia imposes certain specific maintenance and safety requirements upon landlords. If an injury occurs, and that injury can be traced back to the landlord’s failure to keep the premises in good repair, then the injured party may be able to prevail in a premises liability lawsuit.
Georgia laws regarding landlord liability
The 2 state laws most often cited when it comes to Georgia premises liability law are GA Code § 44-7-14 and GA Code § 44-7-13.
- GA Code § 44-7-13 says that the landlord is responsible for keeping the premises in repair and shall be liable for all substantial improvements that are placed upon the premises by their consent.
- GA Code § 44-7-14 says that the landlord is responsible for any damages that arise from defective construction or from a failure to keep the premises in good repair.
If the injury occurs as a result of the tenant’s negligence or illegal activity that occurs on the property, then the landlord generally can’t be found liable. Under the statute, the injury has to have occurred as a result of the landlord’s negligence or defective construction and not due to the tenant’s conduct.
This is true in both residential and commercial circumstances. For example, a commercial landlord of a grocery store might be found liable for a slip and fall injury if evidence shows that:
- The roof was leaking, causing water to pool inside the store,
- The landlord knew about the leaking roof and did not timely repair the leak, and
- The pooling water caused a customer to slip and fall, injuring themselves.
The same commercial landlord would likely not be held liable, however, if an employee or customer spilled something on the floor shortly before the accident and that was the cause of the slip and fall injury. Here, the court will likely find that no negligence occurred on the part of the landlord since there wasn’t reasonable time to clean up the spill, and so there is no liability.
In addition to the statutes cited above, landlords should be aware of individual building codes and other property laws that they need to follow in order to remain compliant. Towns, cities and counties throughout Georgia have their own distinct laws that landlords must follow in order to prevent being held liable in an injury lawsuit.
A landlord who is “out of possession” of the property in question, one who does not occupy the property being leased or exercise much control on a day-to-day basis, is statutorily only responsible to the tenant for “damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.”
A landlord who is “in possession” of the property, someone who occupies the property or who exercises more substantial day-to-day control over the property, is held to a higher standard because they are an occupier of the land in question.
Under the applicable statute, GA Code § 51-3-1, the landlord “by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.”
What does the lease say?
Another important consideration is what specific language exists in the lease agreement between the landlord and tenant. Although the landlord can’t disclaim premises liability in the lease agreement, many residential and commercial responsibilities between landlords and tenants are defined more thoroughly or even broadened, in the lease agreement.
The lease may indicate what improvements or changes the tenant is permitted to make to the property, or when and how the landlord is allowed to inspect the premises. The lease should also indicate who is responsible for repairs and maintenance on the property, as well as notice requirements pertaining to such repairs and maintenance. The terms of a lease can’t fully release a landlord from liabilities and responsibilities pertaining to safety and repair, however.
When an injury occurs on leased property, the best way to determine your rights is to consult a premises liability attorney. It is important that you arm yourself with the right legal knowledge and understanding about the law, and that is where having an experienced attorney in your corner can be the right move.