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Landlord Liability for Defective Common Stairways

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What Are a Landlord's General Responsibilities for Common Areas?

The general rule is that where a landlord retains control over a property's common areas, she has a duty of exercising reasonable care to keep such areas in reasonably safe condition for people who have a right to use the premises. These common areas often include steps or stairways in which all tenants may use.

What is Considered an Unsafe Stairway?

Court holding landlords liable for stairways injuries have distinguished common characteristics that make stairways unsafe. These include:

  • Absence of a banister or railing along the stairs
  • Worn or uneven step surfaces
  • Loose, torn, or bulging stair carpets

What is Considered a Safe Stairway?

Generally, if a landlord has taken reasonable steps to maintain safety in a stairway, courts have held that the landlord is not liable. Some maintenance procedures include:

  • Ordinary cleaning or waxing of a stairway. 
  • Using an abrasive surface on a stairway to prevent slipping
  • Adequate lighting

What Other Factors Do Courts Require in Order to Hold a Landlord Liable for a Stairway Injury?

Most importantly, courts will weigh whether the landlord was aware of the stairway condition. Some courts have held that the duty or reasonable care includes not only a duty to make repairs but also a duty to exercise reasonable care to discover a defect. 

Can Tenants be at Fault for Their Own Stairway Injury?

In deciding a personal injury dispute, courts often take into consideration whether the injured person had acted reasonably. Cases where a tenant had assumed the risk of injury from a stairway analyze a number of factors. These include:

  • Familiarity with the premises
  • The urgency of proceeding
  • Choice of routes available
  • Availability of light

Taken together, courts analyze whether the tenant acted reasonably under all the facts and circumstances involved in the personal injury dispute to determine whether the tenant was at fault rather than the landlord. 

Do I Need an Attorney for My Personal Injury Case?

An experienced personal injury attorney would be beneficial in your lawsuit. These cases often involve a variety of details and can become very complex. An attorney will help you through the legal process and protect your interests.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 07-02-2013 03:12 PM PDT

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