HOME-BASED INJURIES ARE ON THE RISE! Protect Yourself, Your Family, Your Friends

Mark Gray
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Ironically, stay-at-home orders and shelter-in-place requirements may help protect us from the coronavirus, but they are making it more likely to be injured at home. Because we are spending almost all our time at home. Because we are barely driving. Because we are rarely engaged in commercial and public spaces… Home sweet home is now ground zero for many more injuries.

Thankfully, the law protects you. And insurance companies may compensate you for injuries sustained at home.

1. Landlords have a legal duty to maintain their buildings hazard-free and in a reasonable state of good repair.” Even if you’ve lost your job and stopped paying rent, the landlord is on the hook and has an obligation to keep you safe for as long as he/she owns the building. This duty covers practically anything in the building and in common areas that could be a hazard, such as:

  • Leaks
  • Broken steps or missing handrails
  • Rotting ceilings
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Missing or unleveled flooring
  • Malfunctioning elevators
  • Faulty or absent security features
  • Loose cabinetry
  • Excessively hot tap water
  • Mold
  • Unsafe conditions in hallways, laundry rooms, recreational areas and other common areas

2. Tenant beware and take action: The law requires that landlords be “on notice” of any defect or dangerous condition. Therefore, tenants should promptly inform their landlord and/or management office of any problems in their apartment or common area. That way, the landlord can’t later claim they were unaware of the problem. This is called actual notice. It’s best to put the landlord on actual notice in multiple ways: For instance, write a letter to the management office and send an email to the landlord and call 3-1-1 (if you’re in NYC). Retain copies of everything in order to prove your case later. 3. Even if there is no actual notice, the Landlord can still be found liable for your injuries, if… 

  • The Landlord, or his employees or agents, creates the dangerous condition. For example: if the super washes the floor, yet forgets to post a warning sign or device, and you happen to walk by and fall as a result; or
  • The landlord negligently repairs a condition. For example: when a persistent leak rots a section of ceiling, but the super merely spackles over the damage rather than addressing the root cause (leak) — later resulting in a ceiling collapse; or
  • The law constructively imposes liability on the landlord because the defective condition has persisted for so long that the landlord should have noticed it and repaired it. For example: for weeks (or sometimes months or years) the super walks past a broken step but does nothing to fix it and doesn’t inform the landlord.

4. Do only leaseholders enjoy this protection? Absolutely not — the law gives roommates, family, and even visitors essentially the same legal rights as renters themselves. 5. What if I own a co-op or condo? These same laws apply to the common areas in co-ops and condos. Rules vary if the dangerous condition exists within the apartment.   6. What if I get injured? Call 9-1-1 or get other medical attention immediately. Arrange to have the dangerous condition photographed or otherwise documented. Contact legal counsel as soon as possible, so a proper investigation can begin and evidence can be preserved. 7. But I like my landlord and don’t want to sue…  Don’t worry, virtually all landlords carry general liability and casualty insurance. This means that their insurance company will handle the matter from start to finish, including paying out settlements. That’s what insurance is for!

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