If someone is injured in your rental and the accident is your fault, the first question that comes up is whether you're covered by insurance. Luckily, most renter's policies cover personal injury claims. However, slip and fall injuries on rental properties raise many questions about who is at fault. If the accident is caused by a defect at the property and the defect is the landlord's responsibility, the victim's claim is against the landlord.
Accidents in the Home
If you invite a guest into your home and she injures herself, she may have a claim against you. It all depends on how the injury occurred. Your guest must fall because of some defect or unsafe condition at the property. If she simply falls due to her own clumsiness, she has no claim. The most common slip and fall injuries in the home involve tripping on stairs, rugs and carpets, or slipping on icy paths and yards.
Any number of maintenance issues could cause a household trip and fall. For example, your guest may trip on the stairs because the handrail is faulty, or because you spilled some water on a stair step and didn't wipe it up. Depending on the terms of your lease, the former is likely the landlord's responsibility and the latter is likely yours. If your guest sues and the court rules in her favor, the person responsible for the accident must pay her medical bills and other compensatory damages. If you don't have renter's insurance to cover these costs, you will have to pay them out of pocket.
Accidents and Renter's Insurance
Liability protection is standard with most renter's insurance policies. If your guest is injured and it's your fault, your policy pays out. Although policies differ, the insurance typically covers the claimant's medical bills and other damages, as well as your legal expenses up to the amount of your coverage. This protection covers the entire rental, inside and out. Thus, if you guest slips on an icy walkway and your lease requires you to keep the property's pathways clear of ice and snow, your renter's policy would cover your guest's medical bills. As with all insurance, check the policy conditions before you buy.
Landlord May be Liable
Depending on state law and the terms of your lease, your landlord may be responsible for certain property defects. Many states have habitability laws, which require the landlord to keep the rental unit in good repair, and most residential leases require the landlord to maintain at least the structural parts of the building. If your landlord is responsible for the defective area, knew about the defect, and failed to remedy it within a reasonable time, a court will likely hold him responsible for the accident. It's a good idea to inform the landlord immediately of any repairs that need to be made to the rental property and to document the date you informed him. If repairs have not been made yet when guests arrive, let them know which parts of the rental unit to avoid.
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