A property owner is legally obligated to provide reasonable care and maintenance of the property to ensure that it is safe from dangerous conditions. However, depending on how the person is entering the property the duty changes. There are generally three categories for duty of care which include an invitee, a licensee and a trespasser. A duty is imposed on the property owners to prevent serious injuries from occurring on the premises which is also known as premises liability.

States differ on the duty owed to the individuals entering your property and how they should be categorized. Therefore, it’s useful to research local laws in your state for the correct application of the rules for the property owners duties and responsibilities. Furthermore, a property owner must inspect the property and adequately fix any unsafe conditions or provide a warning about them. Even if the owner is unaware of the dangerous condition in the property and fails to fix it, they can still be held liable for any injuries resulting from that condition.

How to Determine What Type of Duty is Owed?

There are three categories of people entering your property and depending on which one they fall under, your duty towards them varies. First, is an invitee who among the three is owed the highest duty of care. An invitee is a person invited to the property for business purposes. According to this standard, a property owner owes the duty to repair and fix known dangers. Additionally, they have an obligation to reasonably inspect for, discover, and fix unknown hazards in those areas of the property of where an invitee may have access to. For example, a store keeper owes a duty of reasonable care to its customers to be able to use the restroom on the premises.

Second, a licensee is a person on the property for social reasons or for their own purpose. The level of care is lower for licensees than an invitee. A property owner is only required to take reasonable care to protect licensees from any known dangers on the property, but does not need to inspect for and discover unknown dangers. For example, if a you host a party and invite someone to the home they are considered a licensee on your property.

Lastly, a trespasser is an individual who enters your property without permission. Property owners do not owe a duty to protect trespassers who enter their property but they cannot willfully injure them. However, if there are frequent trespassers on the property and the property owner is aware of them then he or she may be held liable for the injuries sustained due to an unsafe condition on the property. The following are some conditions that must be present for liability:

  • The dangerous condition exists because the property owner created it or maintained it;  
  • The hazardous condition was likely to cause death or serious bodily harm and;
  • The landowner failed to exercise due to warn the trespassers of the condition and the risk present.

But these guidelines change when applied to children trespassers. For example, if a child wanders off and injures himself due to dangerous conditions in the property, the property owner may be held liable. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your property does not have hazardous conditions that can attract nearby children to the property. There is a duty to inspect the premises for safety and repair any known dangerous conditions.

What Are Some Types of Premises Liability Cases?

Personal injury liability cases can be classified into premises liability cases that include:

  • Slip and fall cases; 
  • Snow and ice accidents;
  • Inadequate maintenance of the premises;  
  • Defective conditions and unsafe conditions on the premises;  
  • Lack of building security that can lead to an injury or an assault; 
  • Elevator and escalator accidents;
  • Dog bites; 
  • Swimming pool accidents;  
  • Amusement park accidents; 
  • Fires;  
  • Water leaks or flooding and;  
  • Toxic fumes or chemicals.

What Measures Can the Property Owner Take?

Property owners owe a duty to anyone entering their property, but it is not absolute. There is a limitation in making reasonable efforts to avoid foreseeable harm. In other words, the owner needs to make the property safe from probable dangers but not all dangers. For example, a reasonable effort may include fixing broken stairs or inspecting common apartment areas. However, some measures may not be considered fair expectations of the property owner. For example, employing armed guards to patrol 24 hours a day, at an office building in a low-crime area may be seen as unreasonable.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are a property owner that deals on a daily basis with either of the three categories of people entering your property. It may be useful to research the local state laws on premises

liability to learn about your duties and responsibilities towards visitors and trespassers or contact your local property lawyer.