Landlords are responsible for keeping their rental property safe for tenants (and their guests). Property owners who don't meet this responsibility may be liable for tenant injuries caused by unsafe or defective conditions—for example, if a tenant is injured by a fire that was caused by a broken heater in the rental unit.
A landlord may be legally responsible for tenant injuries or losses that resulted from the landlord’s failure to keep the premises habitable; failure to make certain repairs; violation of a health or safety code; or negligent or careless conduct.
Many tenant personal injury claims are based on the landlord’s acting negligently or carelessly. A tenant’s success in winning a settlement from the landlord’s insurance company or a large jury award is more likely if the following hold true:
If your injury is significant and costly (you have high doctor bills, have lost work, and the like), you’ll want to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. In the majority of cases, the lawyer will try to reach a settlement with your landlord’s insurance company (before going to trial). The success of your claim will depend on several factors, including a physician’s written confirmation of your injuries; your documentation of your financial losses (such as medical bills or proof of lost wages); evidence of the cause of your injury (such as a photo of a broken step or handrail); any paperwork documenting your attempts to get the problem fixed (such as written repair requests to your landlord); and eyewitness reports.
Before you move into a new rental property, always inspect the living unit (as well as common areas) for any problems—especially serious ones, such as a broken heater or loose electrical wiring. Have the property owner fix the problems (especially dangerous ones that are likely to cause injury) before you move in. For less serious problems, get the landlord’s written promise to make the repairs within a specified period of time.
Once you’ve moved in, be sure to promptly report maintenance and repair problems to the landlord or manager—especially those that are likely to cause injury or loss. Be as specific as possible about the problem, how it’s affecting you, and what you what done when. Put your repair request in writing (even if you’ve first told the landlord over the phone or in person). You’ll want this paper trail if you need to pursue a tenant's legal rights when it comes to defective conditions (to withhold rent, for example) because of the landlord’s failure to make necessary repairs.
If your landlord has posted warning signs or put safety cones around certain danger zones, heed those warnings and avoid the spots as much as possible.