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The Landlord’s Duty To Keep Property Safe for Tenants

LANDLORDS HAVE A LEGAL DUTY TO KEEP RENTAL PROPERTIES REASONABLY SAFE.

The general rule in California states that every landlord has a legal duty to keep the properties (s)he owns “reasonably safe” for tenants and others who do or might enter the property. Also, the law considers anyone who visits a rental property to be an “invitee” of the landlord, regardless of whether the visitor entered the property for business or social purposes.

Also, landlords may not always be able to pass the duty to inspect, maintain, and/or repair the property on to the tenant, even by contract. The circumstances under which the landlord’s duty is “non-delegable” can vary. Landlords should be careful, and consult an attorney before relying on provisions in a lease or other contract shifting responsibility for repair and maintenance of rental property to the tenant.

Failure to comply with the appropriate legal duties may lead to the landlord having legal liability if someone is injured on the property, especially if the injury is of a type–or caused by a hazard–that the landlord knew about or should have reasonably foreseen.

THE LEVEL OF DUTY OWED BY THE LANDLORD DEPENDS ON THE LEVEL OF CONTROL THE LANDLORD EXERCISES OVER THE PROPERTY.

Landlords have a duty to inspect rental property:

– Whenever the landlord has legal possession of the property; and

– Before transferring possession of the property to a tenant or other third party, by lease or otherwise.

If the landlord’s inspection reveals hazardous conditions on the property, the landlord also has a duty to repair, or take reasonable precautions, to mitigate (remove or reduce) the hazard.

After transfer of the rental property to a tenant, the landlord’s duty to inspect and repair is generally dependent upon the landlord’s actual knowledge of the hazard and ability to control the premises. If the landlord does not know about the hazard (and should not, reasonably, have known of its existence) and does not have control of the premises, the landlord’s liability for injuries occurring on the property is generally limited to situations where:

– The landlord had actual knowledge of the hazard or issue; and

– The landlord had the legal right and ability to repair or mitigate the hazard.

Where the landlord cannot physically enter the property to repair the problem, the law does not generally hold the landlord liable if someone is injured. However, where the landlord does have the power to enter the land and make repairs, and knows of a problem, the landlord normally has a continuing duty to do so.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR 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. Negligence and premises liability claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against a property owner who permitted or failed to repair a dangerous condition, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your possible rights and claims.

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