Generally, the landowner or occupant of property abutting a public sidewalk does not owe the public a duty to keep the sidewalk in safe condition. The city has the duty to keep the sidewalk free from defective conditions. A statute or ordinance does not change this rule unless express provisions make the owner liable for injuries caused by his noncompliance with the statute or ordinance.

However, an owner or occupant must exercise reasonable care not to endanger the safety of persons using the sidewalk, and will be liable for injuries resulting from his negligence or wrongful act. Therefore, an abutting owner may be liable for injuries to users of the sidewalk resulting from a defective or dangerous condition which is created or arises from his own acts or conduct. Thus, where an abutting landowner has constructed, reconstructed, altered, resurfaced, or repaired the sidewalk, he may be held liable for injuries resulting from his negligence in the work or maintenance of the sidewalk.  

Courts are split on whether the fact that the owner or occupant had notice or knowledge of the defect is enough to find them liable. Some courts say that notice or knowledge is a factor supporting liability, while others hold that notice or knowledge cannot be questioned.

Can a Tenant Be Liable for the Defective Condition of a Sidewalk?

Where a tenant has rented a property and taken possession of it, he has been held liable for injuries where the defect was created after the lease. This is particularly true when the condition was due solely to the acts of the tenant or was created as the result of work performed for his benefit. However, where the defective condition existed at the time the landlord leased his property to a tenant, the landlord has generally been held liable for the injuries, even where the condition was created by a former tenant.

Should I Contact An Attorney?

Whether you own your home or you rent, you could potentially be liable if someone is injured on the sidewalk in front of your property. A real estate attorney can help explain the law and your rights to protect you from liability.