Can I Sue My Landlord if I am Injured on His/Her Property?
Asheville is home to many rental properties where residents live full-time. While landlords and property management companies are frequently responsive to tenants’ issues with broken sidewalks, shaky stairs, or other safety hazards, many landlords drag their feet or ignore tenants’ complaints about dangerous conditions entirely.
The issue with neglected safety hazards like these is obvious: it places tenants in danger of falls and injuries. Children and elderly people are especially at risk for injuries in these conditions, although even able-bodied people can succumb to a trip and fall injury on pavement, stairwells, or other areas that have fallen into disrepair. Uneven carpeting in hallways can even cause fall-related injuries. Renovation crews that leave tools or extension cords in walkways overnight can also present fall risks to residents.
When can I sue my landlord for fall-related injuries?
N.C.G.S. § 42-42 addresses landlords’ responsibilities for keeping rental properties in safe conditions. It states, in part, that landlords must “make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.” Landlords must also “keep all common areas of the premises in safe condition.” This statute unambiguously places a responsibility on landlords to ensure that their properties are safe for the people who live at and visit these places.
Unfortunately, many tenants who live in buildings that have fallen into disrepair have accidents that leave them with serious injuries. Falls down stairs, on concrete, or on other types of flooring or paving can cause sprains, strains, broken bones, or injuries to the head, neck or back that leave victims unable to work or care for their families while they heal. Some slip and fall victims even suffer from chronic pain or other permanent disabilities that drastically affect their quality of life – all because their landlords neglected to perform a fix to their property to prevent such an injury.
What is “notice”? How should I put my landlord on notice?
Landlords have a statutory responsibility to maintain their properties to keep tenants safe from injury. However, tenants must give notice to their landlords of problems that arise, such as hazardous or unsafe conditions in common areas. This is called “putting a landlord on notice” that there is an issue that must be addressed.
A telephone or face-to-face conversation about problems can serve as putting your landlord on notice. However, putting complaints in writing proves that you notified your landlord that a repair was needed. You can memorialize a phone or in-person conversation by writing a note to your landlord. This can be as simple as a note reminding your landlord of the needed repairs. If you’d like to sugarcoat the complaint, you can also thank them for meeting or talking with you about the needed repair. Landlords are people, too, and politeness can often go a long way toward getting a problem fixed. Whatever tone you choose, make sure to list the date and time of your conversation and the needed repairs that you discussed.
What types of injuries can landlords be held liable for?
Landlords can hypothetically be held liable for any injuries that occur due to their negligence in keeping a property safe. Injuries from a fall, smoke inhalation from improperly-maintained smoke detectors, or drowning injuries from swimming pools that were not appropriately fenced in could all be attributable to a landlord’s negligence if an injured person can prove that the landlord knew or should have known about a hazardous condition on their property. If you can argue that your case meets all the required elements of negligence, you may be able to convince an insurance adjuster or a jury that your landlord should pay for your injuries.
The elements of negligence are:
- Duty. In premises liability cases, the landlord’s duty is to keep his or her property in a habitable condition and keeping common areas safe.
- Breach of duty. A breach of duty occurs when a landlord fails to make needed repairs, allows maintenance or construction crews to leave areas in unsafe conditions while working on them, or otherwise knowingly allows the property to remain unsafe.
- Proximate cause of injury. The landlord’s failure to repair an issue must be the cause of injuries for you to collect compensation from him or her. If you were injured because you were texting while walking on uneven pavement, for example, the landlord might successfully argue that your own negligence caused your injuries. In addition, just because a stairwell is unsafe does not mean that you can collect money from your landlord.
- Damages. You must have suffered damages to collect compensation from a landlord. The term “damages” encompasses a lot of different things, but most frequently means lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
Call an experienced Asheville premises liability attorney today
Injured people often find it difficult to handle their premises liability cases on their own. Proving that your landlord knew of the hazardous condition, that your injuries were in fact caused by the landlord’s failure to make needed repairs, and other aspects of your case are all necessary to building a strong case.
Cases that involve complex injuries like broken bones or head injuries are even more complicated. In cases like these, you need to prioritize your recovery, which is difficult when medical providers and creditors need to be paid, and your funds are limited while you are out of work.
Our experienced personal injury team is ready to help with your case, whether you are still receiving treatment or you are ready to make a demand from your landlord’s insurance company. Call us today to schedule a meeting with Attorney Denton, where we will assess your case and advise you on what you can expect at each stage of the process of filing a claim. We can help you investigate your claim and even speak to medical debt collectors on your behalf. Consultations are always free.