When a dangerous condition on a landlord’s property injures someone, questions invariably arise about the landlord’s obligations to keep the premises safe. Like other personal injury cases, a plaintiff suing a landlord will need to show that the landowner acted negligently, by failing to fulfill its duty of care toward the injured person. But where does a landlord’s obligation apply, and what are its limits?
A landlord’s duty of care
Nevada law requires landlords to exercise reasonable care not to subject others to an unreasonable risk of harm. Wright v. Schum, 105 Nev. 611, 614 (1989). Whether a landlord’s actions are reasonable depends on the circumstances. The likelihood of an injury and its probable seriousness are important factors in this analysis. Turpel v. Sayles, 101 Nev. 35, 38 (1985), quoting Sargent v. Ross, 308 A.2d 528, 534 (N.H. 1973). Under this rule, a landowner has an obligation to address dangerous conditions that it knows about. And it has an obligation not to create unsafe conditions, like locking a door that could foreseeably be used as a fire escape route.
Where tenant responsibility takes hold
A distinction should be drawn between areas of a property that are under the landowner’s exclusive control and those under tenant control. A landlord has exclusive responsibility for conditions that are present in a property’s common areas. This is true even if a tenant or visitor initially creates the condition—even if the landlord has a legal claim against the person who created the risk, the responsibility still rests with the landlord to fix it.
Under the modern rule, a tenant’s possession of the premises is one of the circumstantial facts used to determine the reasonableness of a landlord’s behavior. Turpel, 101 Nev. at 38. A landlord that has no notice of a dangerous condition within a tenant’s apartment probably isn’t acting unreasonably if it doesn’t fix the problem, at least so long as the condition was a consequence of the tenant’s negligence.
A landlord can assume responsibility for a dangerous condition like a vicious dog by asserting control over it, however badly. The Nevada Supreme Court dealt with this question in Wright. In that case, a tenant’s escaped pit bull injured the plaintiff, who sued both the tenant and his landlord. In Wright the dog escaped the property thanks to defective fencing on the property’s perimeter. The Court found that the landlord could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because the landlord had notice of the dog’s aggressiveness and had taken steps to address the problem by asking the tenant to keep the dog chained. Wright, 105 Nev. at 614-15.
GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm
If you have been injured by a dangerous condition that was potentially due to a landlord’s negligence, it’s important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at GGRM are broadly experienced in handling complex personal injury cases. For a free attorney consultation, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.