Landowner Negligence: Who To Sue – The Landlord Or The Tenant?

Landowner Negligence: Who To Sue – The Landlord Or The Tenant?

When you are seriously injured on someone else’s property, a landowner negligence lawsuit may be the best way to be compensated for those injuries. Figuring out who to sue – the landlord or the tenant – can be troublesome. If you sue the wrong party, you could end up having your case dismissed.

Landowner Negligence Depends On Why Your Are On The Property

Landowner negligence lawsuits (often called premises liability) can be hard to win. You and your personal injury lawyer will need to demonstrate a number of elements, starting with why you were on the property. This is because the law requires landowners to take more precautions to protect people they invite onto their property. The law divides visitors into three categories:

  • “Invitees” are people on the property for commercial or business purposes.
  • “Licensees” are people who have the landowner’s consent to be on the property (like social guests) or a legal right to be there (like inspectors)
  • “Trespassers” are people who are on the property without the owner’s consent

A landowner needs to take reasonable care to protect invitees from injury. This may include inspections, repairs, and warnings about foreseeable risks. For licensees, a landowner has a duty to warn about hidden dangers on the property that he or she knows about. Generally, a landowner does not have to do anything to prevent injury to a trespasser. However, there are some exceptions to that rule.

Who To Sue For Residential Landowner Negligence

Most premises liability cases involving licensees are against residential landowners. When the injury happens in or around a private residence, it is often easy to pinpoint who the owner is. However, rental properties can raise more questions. Depending on what caused the injury, and whether it was inside the home or outside, the responsibility to protect against injury could fall on the landlord, the tenant, or both.

For example, a landlord rents a stand-alone home to a single family. The cement steps in front of the house are crumbling. When a visitor to the home falls and is injured because of the crumbling cement, it is probably the landlord’s problem. But if the cause of the fall was a toy or other object left on the steps, it may be the tenant’s responsibility.

In apartment complexes, it can be even harder to tell who to sue. Tenants are generally responsible for cleaning and maintaining their own apartments (except for certain structural issues). However, landlords – and sometimes their property management companies – are responsible for common areas like hallways and stairwells.

Who To Sue For Business Landowner Negligence

Those same overlapping duties come into play in most commercial or business landowner negligence cases. In many cases, business owners are renting their property. Just like with apartment complexes and rental homes, this means that the duty to protect invitees can sometimes be split between the landlord property owner and the business tenant.

In addition, commercial spaces are more likely to have property management companies, cleaning services, and contractors who may all share the responsibility to inspect, repair, and warn about potential hazards in the space.

For example, a shopper slips and falls on a wet patch of vinyl flooring near the front of a store within a mall. If the puddle is in the mall itself, it may be the landlord’s responsibility. If it is inside the store, it could be the fault of the business tenant. However, if it was caused by the cleaning company failing to put up a sign, the cleaners may be the ones at fault. (Also, if the puddle was caused by natural causes, like rain or snowmelt there may be no landowner negligence at all.)

Bottom Line: Sue Whoever Has Control Of The Space

The bottom line in any premises liability case is that the person (or legal entity) who controls the space is the one with a duty to protect the people in it. However, sorting through the layers of landlord, tenant, and contractor relationships can be taxing to say the least. if you want to win your landlord negligence case, you will need an experienced personal injury attorney to investigate the ownership of the property and determine who to sue.

The Cronin Law Firm has experienced attorneys to aid with whatever legal issue you’re facing. If you have been injured in a landlord negligence accident, contact The Cronin Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.