New York City, NY – Top attorney, handles personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, doctor errors, airline injuries & death, MTA, bus accidents, & construction cases. Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter consistently delivers results.
Perhaps more than any other U.S. city, New York City is a city of renters. According to Census data, about 51 percent of the city’s housing units are occupied by tenants rather than owners. Unlike many other cities in the country, this trend rings true for all age ranges, from millennials to retirees over age 65.
With so many renters, it’s important to know what kind of liability a landlord has when it comes to tenant injuries. Does a landlord have a legal obligation to protect a tenant from getting hurt? What are your rights as a tenant if you suffer an injury in someone else’s building? Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know about a landlord’s potential liability for tenant injuries.
A Landlord’s Duty of Care
Generally, a landlord has a duty to tenants and visitors to make sure his property is well maintained and safe for people to enter and occupy. The legal name for this duty is “reasonable care.” In other words, the owner of a building has a duty of reasonable care to ensure his property is safe.
The law assesses whether a landlord breached this duty of reasonable care by asking what other landlords in similar circumstances would do and if the landlord involved in the injury case acted the same as an average, reasonable landlord would have acted in a similar situation.
When a tenant gets hurt on a landlord’s property, there are five different factors at play in determining liability and damages:
- Duty of Care – As discussed above, the first step is to establish whether the landlord owed a duty of care to the tenant. In New York City and the surrounding boroughs, a landlord is also obligated to adhere to building code regulations, such as maintaining smoke detectors and proper exits.
- Breach of the Duty of Care – Once there’s an established duty of care, the court must ask whether the landlord breached the duty of care. For example, in a case where a tenant fell down the stairs, the court may look at whether there were broken stairs, or whether the staircase lacked a proper handrail.
- Actual or Constructive Notice – The injured tenant needs to prove that the landlord had actual notice of a dangerous condition and failed to remedy it within a reasonable time, or that the landlord had constructive notice, which means that a reasonable inspection would have disclosed the dangerous condition. In addition, if the landlord caused or created the condition, then the notice requirement is satisfied.
- Causation – Next, the court will examine whether the landlord’s breach of the duty of care caused the tenant’s injuries. For example, the landlord’s negligence through actions or lack of actions was the direct cause of the occupant’s injury and not the actions of the injured party, or some third party not related to the landlord.
- Damages – The tenant must also be able to show that their injuries were a result of the landlord’s breach of the duty of care and that their damages were a direct result of the injuries sustained. Knowing what type of damages a person may be entitled to is best determined by an experienced personal injury attorney. In general, a tenant can recover for injuries, pain, suffering, loss of income and medical expense.
A Landlord’s Duty to Make Individual Apartments Safe
One question that often arises in landlord liability cases is what kind of liability a landlord has for the conditions inside an apartment unit. After all, most tenants like to make their apartment their own personal space, which means they might add customized furniture or alter the interior layout. Landlords may conduct regular inspections, but are they expected to catch every potential hazard that can lead to injury?
The general rule is that landlords can be held liable for injuries that happen inside an apartment unit, but only when a structural or maintenance problem common to the building caused the injury. For example, in a case where electrical wiring caused a fire that led to a tenant’s injury, the landlord could be held liable for the injuries of anyone directly affected by the fire. Similarly, a landlord could also be held liable for injuries sustained by a tenant due to a structural problem in the building that causes a ceiling tile to fall on them.
Additionally, a landlord can be held liable for injuries that happen in a building’s public space, such as elevators, stairways, foyers, hallways, lobbies, and community laundry facilities.
If you have been injured as a tenant in New York City, it’s important to take quick action to protect your legal rights. There are strict time limits for filing a personal injury claim. If you wait too long, you could miss your opportunity to obtain compensation for your injuries. Be sure to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to help.
NYC Personal Injury Lawyer Jonathan C. Reiter
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.