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The Land Owner’s Duty to Maintain Property


By law, property owners must “maintain” real property in reasonably safe condition. This includes not only the land itself but any improvements (buildings and other structures and fixtures) and landscape elements like bridges, ponds, and trees. The law does not distinguish between natural hazards and man-made ones, meaning that the land owner (or person in possession or control of the land) must be aware of, and mitigate, natural hazards as well as preventing unreasonably dangerous defects in the physical structures on the land.


In general, land owners are not liable under a negligence or premises liability theory for injuries resulting from “trivial defects,” meaning hazards so insignificant that reasonable people would not take steps to remediate them or take action to prevent injury. However, land owners should not assume any defect is “trivial” without consulting legal counsel or a qualified specialist. Whether or not the given defect was “trivial” is a question a trial court (not a jury) will determine, after reviewing the facts and circumstances of the specific case, including the nature of the defect, the plaintiff’s injuries, and any other relevant information. For this reason, it’s better to consult an attorney in advance (or to fix a known issue) than to risk a judicial determination.

*Note: this duty actually applies not only to owners of land, but to people who possess and control land also.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR OR ROSS LAW AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Most legal claims (and defenses) are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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