Common Areas (Hallways, Stairwells, Lobbies, Elevators)
If a landlord is negligent in allowing a defective or hazardous condition to exist in a common area and a tenant or a tenant’s visitor is injured as a result, then the tenant or visitor has a right of action for damages against the landlord. Because the landlord maintains control over the common areas he has a duty to maintain the common areas in a safe condition. This duty requires the landlord to exercise reasonable care in keeping common hallways, lobbies, elevators, pool area, parking lots, stairwells, laundry rooms and garages in a safe condition.
Rented Portions of the Property in the Tenant’s Control (the actual apartment or residence)
A residential landlord can be liable to a tenant or a tenant’s guest for injuries occurring on rented part of the premises if the landlord failed to maintain the rented premises in a reasonably safe condition. A landowner fails to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition when he knew or reasonably should have known of the defect/hazard and had a reasonable opportunity to repair it and failed to repair it. M.G.L.A. c. 186, § 19 is a statute that requires landlords to go to reasonable lengths to make reasonable repairs within a reasonable time after receiving written notice from a tenant of building inspector of an unsafe condition on the rented portions of premises. This statute imposes a landlord with liability for a tenant’s injuries caused by defects or hazardous conditions that are present in the portions of the residential unit, condo, apartment, etc. that are under the tenant’s control, which were not caused by the tenant which the landlord knew of and failed to repair in a reasonable time.
- The “unsafe condition” that caused the injury must not have been caused by the tenant, her guest, or anyone occupying the premises with the tenant’s permission;
- A landlord was placed on notice when the tenant, board of health or other code enforcement agency informs the landlord of a specific violation of the State Sanitary Code or state/town/city building code.
Implied Warranty of Habitability
A landlord can be held liable for injuries sustained to a tenant or the guest of a tenant if the landlord has breached what’s known as the implied warranty of habitability. When a landlord rents a condo, house, room, apartment or some other place used for residential purposes the landlord warrants to the tenant at the time the tenant moves in that there are not any latent defects (A latent defect is a hidden defect in the property that could not have been discovered by a reasonably thorough inspection before the tenant moved in) or patent defects (A patent defect is an open and obvious defect in the property that could have been discovered by a reasonably thorough inspection before the tenant moved in) that will interfere with the use and enjoyment of the premises. The landlord also warrants that the premises will continue to remain in a livable condition for the duration of the entire tenancy.