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Landlord Liability: Exemption Clause Applicability to Third Parties

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Does a Landlord Liability Exemption Clause in a Lease Apply to Third Parties who are Injured on the Property?

It depends.  Some states such as California, Illinois, Indiana, and New York hold that a liability exemption clause in a lease has no effect on anyone other than the tenant who signs it.  Therefore, a landlord can still be held liable for any injuries to third parties on the property, regardless of whether or not the lease has an exemption clause.

For example, suppose that A signs a lease to live in B’s apartment complex with a faulty stairway.  In the lease, A agrees to not hold B liable for any injury that results from the faulty stairway.  Now suppose A invites C to the apartment, and the stairway collapses as C is walking on it.  C can still hold B liable for her injuries, regardless of A’s agreement with B.

In contrast, states such as Georgia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania hold that a liability exemption clause signed by a tenant can also apply to third parties as well.  In this case, third parties injured on the property cannot sue the landlord even if they had no part in signing the lease. 

What Factors Are Considered in States that Allow an Exemption Clause to Apply?

Most states determine whether to apply a liability exemption clause based on some relationship between the signing tenant and the injured party.  This includes:

  • Spouses and children of the tenant
  • Employees of the tenant
  • Invited guests of the tenant
  • Subtenants


In addition, other factors may be taken into account, including:

  • Place of injury
  • Landlord’s violation of statute or ordinance
  • Successors to the lease with the original exemption clause in it

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

If you were injured on someone else’s leased property, you should contact a personal injury attorney immediately to assess your case.  An attorney can determine the applicability of liability exemption clauses in your state, and whether or not one was included in the leased property.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 02-09-2012 11:25 AM PST

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