Sunday, March 3, 2013

Liability of Landowners

It's important to know the rules on the MBE regarding the duties owed by a landowner towards trespassers (discovered vs undiscovered), licensees, and invitees. These questions appear quite often.

Another area that appears is the duty owed by a lessor of land to people (the lessee and others) who are injured on the land. As a general rule, a lessor of land is not subject to liability to others on the land for physical harm caused by any dangerous condition which comes into existence after the lessee has taken possession. If the dangerous condition exists prior to the lease, then the lessor has a duty to warn of the dangerous condition if the condition is unlikely to be discovered by the lessee.

There are quite a few angles here that the MBE can test. For example, suppose the lessor leases only some of his property, and retains the remainder. In such an instance, the lessor will remain liable for physical harm caused by dangerous conditions, if the harm occurs on the retained land, but not if the harm occurs on the leased land.

The rules above change if there is a contract involved in which the lessor has contracted by a covenant in the lease to keep the land in repair. If so, then the lessor will be liable even if the dangerous condition arises after the lessee has taken possession of the property.

Lastly, note that even if there is no covenant to repair, the lessor will still be subject to liability for dangerous conditions that create an unreasonable risk to others upon the land, if the lessor voluntarily agrees to repair the dangerous condition, but does so in a negligent manner, and the dangerous condition injures someone on the property.


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