We’ve all heard the story of the seedy landlord, leaving the building in disrepair, or ghosting you for weeks after you’ve requested a fix. So, what happens when you are injured as a result of that repair being ignored? While lawsuits against a landlord are tricky, you may have a case if you asked for a repair and your landlord failed to uphold their agreement to keep your home safe. In this article, we will discuss the many aspects that need to be present in order to have a valid lawsuit, as well as what you should do if all those boxes are checked. You may be entitled to compensation from your landlord for your injuries, so follow along to find out.
Can I File a Lawsuit Against My Landlord For a Slip-and-Fall?
Though these types of cases are complex, it is possible to file a lawsuit against your landlord. You will need to prove that your landlord was negligent (at fault) and that you suffered an injury as a result of that negligence. To prove negligence, you will need to establish three points.
Duty of Care
You must prove that the landlord owed you a duty of care. This means that they were responsible, in some way, for keeping you safe. Landlords have a legal responsibility to keep your rental property in a safe and livable condition. Further, once notified, they are obligated to fix any hazards that may arise on the property.
You must prove that the landlord breached the duty of care. Once notified of the hazard, if the landlord failed to act promptly, they have breached their duty of care. Further examples of a breach include failing to maintain safe common areas, such as railings, steps, floorboards, or sidewalks.
The last piece of the puzzle that will need to be proved is that your injury resulted from the landlord's negligence. For a successful lawsuit, there will need to be sufficient evidence linking the unrepaired hazard to the tenant’s injury. The landlord must have been notified of the hazard and given a reasonable amount of time to resolve the issue before the slip or fall occurred.
When Is a Landlord Responsible for a Slip-and-Fall Injury?
For a slip-and-fall case to be valid, your landlord's fault must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Your landlord is responsible for keeping a safe environment, but it is important to distinguish between what a judge would deem as the landlord's responsibility and what is not. Let’s look into a few scenarios to help you better understand the difference.
It is the landlord's job to repair any hazards once notified of their existence. For example, the tenant notices a leak causing a puddle on the floor of their apartment. They reach out to the landlord instantly to notify them of the issue. A few weeks go by, and the landlord still needs to resolve the leak, even though the tenant has followed up about the issue and tried to resolve it by mopping up the water and placing a bucket underneath the leak. Eventually, the tenant slips and falls and is injured as a result of the leak. In this case, the landlord may be held liable as they were well aware of the issue and did not act within a reasonable time to resolve the problem.
It is important to note that the tenant did everything in their power to avoid falling and resolve the issue on their own. The court may hold the tenant partly responsible if they were aware of the danger and did not move with caution. However, in the hypothetical scenario above, the tenant made every reasonable effort to ensure safety, and it was the landlord who failed to resolve the issue in a timely manner.
It is within the landlord's responsibility to care for common areas and make sure they are safe to use. Here, the tenant notices a loose railing in the lobby of an apartment complex. They notify the landlord of its weakness, and the landlord tells them it’s not a concern. Following that interaction, the railing breaks, causing the tenant to fall down the stairs and injure themselves. Once again, the landlord would be responsible for the tenant's injury as they knew about the hazard but neglected it.
However, if a neighbor’s child leaves a toy in the hallway and you step on it and are injured, it is unlikely to fall under the landlord's scope of responsibility. The landlord cannot be expected to know about all hazards in the complex, especially those caused by other tenants. However, railings, stairs, and sidewalks should be kept clear and free of hazards.
Check Your Lease
It is important to ensure that the tenant did not agree to upkeep parts of the rental property in the lease. For instance, if the unit has a garden that has become overgrown and leads to a fall, but the upkeep of the garden was placed under the tenant’s responsibility in the lease, the landlord is unlikely to be held liable.
Can I Sue My Landlord For a Slip-and-Fall Inside My Rental?
As shown in the examples above, the circumstances surrounding the fall inside of the rental will significantly affect your ability to sue. Above, the tenant was quick to notify the landlord and made every reasonable effort to avoid the hazard. As the jury is likely to side with the landlord, sufficient evidence will be needed to prove that the landlord knew about the issue and did not resolve it in a reasonable timeframe. Beyond that, it must be established that the tenant made every effort to improve the situation independently and avoid the hazard.
If, for instance, a hazard arose and you slipped and fell before you could notify the landlord, then it is unlikely you will have a case. The landlord must be given notice and a reasonable amount of time to resolve the issue.
If you have an ongoing issue in your rental unit that your landlord is failing to resolve, it may be time to reach out to a tenant attorney or seek tenant resources. The US Department of Housing has resources for tenant rights in each state.
Do I Have To Pay Rent if I File a Lawsuit Against My Landlord?
You must continue to pay rent during an ongoing lawsuit. The case is separate from your lease agreement, and a counteraction may be taken against you if you fail to pay rent on time. If you cannot pay rent due to medical bills associated with the injury, it is best to talk to an attorney who may advise your case. In the meantime, check out Rent Assistance for resources to help you pay your rent.
What Should I Do if My Landlord Is Responsible For My Slip-and-Fall?
If you think your landlord is responsible for your injuries, you must start to gather evidence for your case immediately. Some things that you can do to ensure you are well-prepared are:
Make sure you seek medical attention immediately and keep all medical records associated with your injury and any statement made by your doctor regarding the connection between the hazard and your injury.
Document all communications with your landlord. Make sure that you have evidence that they were notified of the hazard and enough time has passed so that they could reasonably resolve the issue.
Gather testimony from witnesses who may have seen the hazard or your injury take place. If you live in a complex with other tenants, it may be helpful if any of them have had issues with the landlord delaying repairs or ignoring hazards in the past.
Take pictures of the scene, the incident, and surrounding areas, as well as your injuries as quickly as possible. This may help preserve the scene in conditions where the hazard may clear up (snow, ice, or leaks).
Once you have built some of your case, it may be time to contact an attorney or tenant resources in your state. The attorney can look at your case and let you know whether you have sufficient evidence to support your lawsuit and help construct a complaint to be filed in court. The suit may officially begin once the complaint is filed in court and served to your landlord.
How Long Does a Slip-and-Fall Lawsuit Take?
A slip-and-fall case can take up to six months or more. From the initial letter of complaint through the settlement hearing, each stage follows a strict legal process that may take a couple of months to complete. To ensure the case moves as swiftly as possible, keep thorough documentation of all communications with your landlord, medical records, documentation of the hazard that caused the injury, and all communication with witnesses.
How To Find a Slip-and-Fall Lawyer
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