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If you’re a landlord, what risk of liability could you face for “latent defects” (dangerous conditions that are hidden or not obvious)on your property? What about if you’re a tenant?

If you’re a landlord, you can be sued by your tenant injured by a latent defect on the rented premises if you knew about it but didn’t tell him (if you want to sound like a lawyer, the legalese translation here is “fraud by ommission”). Once you’ve told him about it however, then depending on the circumstances you’re not necessarily required to actually fix the condition in order to avoid being sued (sometimes you are, sometimes you’re not - it can get complex).

What if you fail to closely inspect the rental property and tus fail to discover a latent defect? If te tenant is injured by it, are you liable? The short answer is, not in most states, but be careful where you live. The reasoning here is that the tenant is injust as good a position as the landlord to inspect the property.

Then there are the more landlord-friendly states that will allow a landlord who knew of a dangerous condition but failed to inform the tenant to escape liability for the tenant’s injury if the defect could have been discovered by the tenant through a “reasonable” inspection (whatever that is!).

Here’s the scary part - if the landlord fails to inform the tenant of a dangerous condition known to the landlord but not to the tenant, and the tenant’s visitor is injured by it, you can be sued by the visitor just as easily as you can be sued by the tenant. And “visitor” here doesn’t just mean the tenant’s mother-in-law - it could also mean a postman or a pizza delivery driver who falls into a hidden pothole and breaks his leg.

Please keep in mind that the law varies from state to state (in this area in particular) and is subject to interpretation.

DISCLAIMER: The following is intended for reference purposes only and not as legal advice.

About the Author:

Bob Miles
Real E


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