In Pennsylvania, as in other states, when you have been injured as a result of dangerous conditions on someone else’s property, you have a right to seek damages for all your losses. That’s because there’s a duty to maintain the premises in such a way that they don’t pose an unreasonable risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. But who is responsible when the person or business actually using the premises is not the owner, but merely a tenant?
As a practical matter, you’ll want to take legal action against both parties—the landlord and the tenant. Ultimately, the insurance companies or the courts will make a determination as to whether one or both parties have liability. There are, however, some general guidelines that courts tend to follow:
- Residential property — As a general rule, the person responsible for maintaining the area where the injury occurred will be liable. Accordingly, if your injury occurs inside an apartment or rental unit, the tenant will be responsible (unless the injury was caused by a defect in the building, such as a broken step or stairway and the landlord knew of the existence of the dangerous condition). If the injury occurs outside of the residence, allocation of liability will typically depend on the type of property. If it’s a multiple unit where the landlord customarily maintains the property, the landlord will have responsibility. However, if it’s a house or single unit, where the tenant has responsibility for all outdoor maintenance (mowing, shoveling, watering, etc.), the tenant will have liability.
- Commercial property — In principle, the rules are the same for commercial premises. Injuries sustained as a result of dangerous conditions inside a business structure are typically the responsibility of the tenant. Injuries suffered outside the building are usually attributed to the landlord. There are exceptions, however—if the tenant’s business involves outdoor displays of merchandise or the landlord is aware of dangerous conditions involving fixtures or permanent structures inside the building.
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