Injury Liability 101: Who’s Liable For Slips, Trips, Falls or Fires?

When someone owns their home and injure themselves there’s little question about liability, but what if it happens to a tenant? Let’s say one of your tenants is planning a big barbecue and decides they want more lighting outside. As they’re climbing their ladder to hang the lights, they lose their footing and slip off, spraining their ankle. Who’s actually liable for the injury on a rental property? The tenant or the landlord? While it’s always recommended to read lease agreements or check into your local laws, there are a few guidelines that can help you determine liability.

Falling while hanging lights or decorations

In the case of a tenant slipping off a ladder while hanging lights or other types of home decor, the liability usually rests with them. As long as the property itself is maintained, it’s up to the tenant to pay attention to their personal safety. Generally, the only time a landlord is responsible for the injury is when the tenant is injured due to an actual structural issue, like falling through a hole in a poorly maintained deck.

Slipping on the floor

Similar to falling off a ladder, a renter would be liable for their own injury unless they can prove that it was the result of being poorly maintained. In the event of a guest falling and injuring themselves, a tenant’s rental insurance should cover the guest’s injury- another great reason to require tenants to have renter’s insurance.

Falling on the sidewalk

Most leases place day-to-day property maintenance responsibilities on the tenant. Day-to-day maintenance includes keeping outdoor walkways clear by cleaning up leaves, brush, rocks, and other tripping hazards. This also includes snow and ice. As the landlord, you have the option of passing 100% of maintenance responsibility onto the client.

Electrical fires

Electrical fires can start any number of ways, but the most common reason they occur is due to old wiring. As a landlord, it falls within your responsibility to make sure that the property is safe and properly maintained – electrical wiring included. If the fire is started due to negligence on the part of the tenant, then the liability rests with them. The best way to prevent liability for electrical fires is to make sure your rental properties are regularly inspected and maintained by a qualified electrician.

Falling on steps

Similar to other types of slips, trips, and falls, tenants will generally be liable unless they fell due to a maintenance issue. If the stairs have boards or nails sticking up, this also falls under the category of being poorly maintained and you could be liable for injuries that occur.

The bottom line

In most instances, the question of liability comes down to how well-maintained the property is. If there are areas of flooring that are weakened, holes in the deck or roof, old shoddy wiring, or similar issues that really should be fixed, the liability lies with the landlord. If everything on the property is regularly maintained and in great shape, then the liability most likely falls on the tenant. Be sure to check your local laws, and always make sure that liability and maintenance responsibilities for the property are clearly defined in the lease to avoid any potential misunderstandings or legal issues.

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