When a tenant sustains the injury on her rental property, the claim falls under an area of the law known as premises liability. If the property owner is found liable, she (her insurance company) will have to pay for the tenant’s damages.
There are several common arguments, discussed below, which owners often use to dispute premises liability. For more extensive information on premises liability, visit our premises liability blog. If you’re a renter, you’ll want to take precautions to protect yourself should you ever sustain an injury and a dispute arise.
Dispute #1: The Preexistence of Hazards
If there are preexisting hazards in a rental, your landlord has an obligation to take care of them. Landlords have a legal duty of care to ensure that their rentals are safe and habitable. Some landlords try to argue that the hazard was not preexisting, that the tenants created the hazard, and that, therefore, the landlord should not be held responsible.
To protect yourself from this kind of dispute, carefully inspect any new property and note all defects/hazards/major disrepair in your rental agreement. Take photos as well. You’ll want written proof that your owner knows about the issue and has solid plans to fix it.
Dispute #2: The Knowledge of Hazards
After you’ve moved in, inform your landlord as soon as possible if one of these instances arises.
- Something breaks
- You notice something that needs repair
- A hazard develops
In order for a landlord to be held legally liable, they must have known about the hazard and have been given the opportunity to address it. Some landlords try to argue that they didn’t know about the hazard and, therefore, shouldn’t be held liable for injuries their tenants suffered.
Let’s take an icy sidewalk, for example. As a resident of Pennsylvania, the landlord is expected, as a reasonable person, to know that the sidewalks will need clearing and de-icing throughout the winter. A tenant could receive compensation for a slip and fall premises claim if the landlord neglects to regularly clear the walks.
However, if a pipe bursts and spills water onto the sidewalk and creates a dangerous slip and fall situation, then the tenant should alert the landlord to this and the landlord wouldn’t necessarily be expected to have cleared that section until the tenant makes the call.
Along the same lines as the first dispute, to protect yourself in this scenario, you’ll want to document every interaction you have with your landlord. Inform them of the hazard in writing. Note the day/time you called and keep copies of any letters. If he or she calls you and promises to address it, note that call as well.
Dispute #3: The Existence of Proof
When you file a premises liability claim, as a tenant, you’ll have the legal burden of proof. This means that you’ll have to prove that the landlord was negligent and that his/her actions caused your injury, as well as the extent of your damages. Some landlords may try to wriggle out of liability by saying you lack evidence.
To overcome this, collect and document every piece of evidence that can support your claim.
- Take photos and videos of the hazard
- Get witness testimony from neighbors
- Get copies of your medical records and bills
Legal Help for Premises Liability Disputes in Pennsylvania
If you were injured and need to file a premises liability claim, our top-notch legal team at Cordisco & Saile LLC can help. Contact our office today for a free consultation at 215-642-2335 and let us help you get the recompense you’re entitled.