I Was Hurt By Something At My Apartment Or Rental Home. Am I Entitled To Compensation?

Premises liability is a complex area of law. It is a part of the civil tort of negligence. Negligence is the legal term for carelessness.

Texas law requires that people and companies show a certain amount of care to not harm others. Different circumstances require different levels of care. For example, certain professionals like doctors have a higher duty of care to their patients that strangers have to one another.

Landowners in Texas owe certain duties of care to people who live on their land.

When Can Landowners Be Sued By Injured Tenants Or Residents Of Their Land?

In general, landowners cannot be sued if the tenant or other resident was injured by a dangerous condition that was already on the land when the tenant or resident moved in.

But there are some very important exceptions:

When A Landowner Knows Or Should Know About A Dangerous Condition That Poses Unreasonable Risk To Tenants

There are certain risks that can harm the tenant, even though the tenant might not know about it. For example, if the walls are painted, the tenant might have no idea an apartment had a mold infestation, which could affect the tenant’s health.

When A Landowner Tells The Tenant Something Will Be Repaired In The Apartment But Fails To Make The Repair

Sometimes an owner tells a prospective or current tenant (usually in the lease) that an unsafe condition (like a wobbly step) needs to be repaired, and that the owner will make the repairs.

By making such a commitment, the owner has a duty to complete the repair and do it with care and attention.

If the owner promises but fails to repair the unsafe condition, then the owner may be legally responsible for injuries caused by the unsafe condition.

When a landowner repairs an unsafe condition in a careless (negligent) manner

If the owner says an unsafe condition will be repaired, but the repair work is negligent, the owner may have to pay for injuries resulting from the condition. A repair might be negligent if the owner:

  • Used substandard materials
  • Did not follow city permit rules and safety requirements
  • Did not have the knowledge of how to repair it properly
  • Repaired the condition incompletely

When a landowner keeps part of the leased premises under their control, but lets the tenant use that space

Sometimes a landowner rents part of the land, and another portion is available for everyone who lives there. This might include:

  • Stairway
  • Elevator
  • Apartment Entryway / Mailbox Room
  • Club house / Community Pool / Common space

When a landowner controls this public space but permits tenants and visitors to use it, the landowner must maintain the public area in a safe manner. If there is an unsafe condition, the landowner may be responsible for injuries caused by that condition.

The right to enter only for repairs usually does not mean the landowner is in control of the property

Under Texas law, tenants have the exclusive right to use the land (or area / apartments) they are renting. The landowner cannot enter the tenant’s exclusive space without permission.

However, most landowners reserve the right to enter to make repairs. For example, if an apartment tenant’s dishwasher is leaking, the landowner can enter the apartment to repair the dishwasher.

Shell Oil Co. v. Khan – Texas Law and Landowner Liability

In the case of Shell Oil Co. v. Khan, the Texas Supreme Court decided that an owner who only has the right to enter to make repairs has not kept enough control over the property to be responsible for that space.

If the owner does not have a duty of care to make an area safe, (like the tenant’s apartment), then the landowner may not be legally responsible for injuries that occur from its unsafe condition.

When the owner leases the land for recreational purposes open to the public

Sometimes a landowner rents the land to someone who will offer admission to the public to engage in recreational activities on the land. For example, some landowners rent their space out as a campground for campers.

If there is an unsafe condition that presents an unreasonable risk of harm to people entering the land, the owner must repair or remove that safe condition.

  • This can include an unsafe condition that the landlord should know about (the landlord must inspect the property for safety issues)
  • Landowner must know that the public will be allowed to enter before the condition is repaired
  • The landowner can also take steps to make the public safe:
    • Warning Sign
    • Barrier to prevent the public from accessing the unsafe condition

Texas Law Limits A Landowner’s Responsibility For Recreational Land

In certain cases, Texas Civil and Remedies Code, Chapter 75 limits when a landowner is responsible for injuries and damage that occurs on land used for recreation.

This law applies only when:

  • The landowner is the defendant (person or company being sued)
  • The injured person entered the land for a recreational purpose.
    • The definition of recreational purpose under Texas law is broad. It includes most activities that involve enjoying the outdoors:
      • Camping
      • Biking
      • Water skiing
      • Hunting
    • Note: Texas courts have held that “recreational activity” does not include outdoor weddings.
  • The injured person was either:
    • Not charged any money for admission, or
    • Charged only an amount that is less than 20 times the owner’s property tax, or
    • The owner, lessee or occupier is required by law to have insurance coverage with the following minimums: $500,000 per person, $1M for every instance of bodily injury or death and $100,000 for every injury or property destruction.

In these cases, the owner, lesses or occupier only owes the same duty as is owed to a trespasser. This is a very low duty of care.

Note, the required insurance is also a cap (limit) on how much compensation an injured person can get. In these cases, an injured person usually cannot sue for more money than the insurance pay-out.

Note: The landowner may still be legally responsible for injuries caused by the landowner’s intentional act (for example setting fire to the property) or gross negligence (extreme carelessness.)

Premises liability is a complex area of law

If you were injured in the property your rent or while enjoying a recreational activity on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to compensation.

However winning a lawsuit or even negotiating a settlement usually requires understanding:

  • Rules of Evidence
  • Rules of Tort Liability
  • Texas Insurance Law
  • How the Texas Legal System works
  • Construction Laws and Standards
  • Property Management Regulations
  • Safety Engineering

All of this can be difficult on your own. You deserve an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.

Warriors For The Injured

Justinian & Associates has represented many victims injured on property that was unsafe because of the owner’s carelessness. We know the system, and will fight to make sure you receive all the compensation you are entitled to under the law.

Call, text or email us for a free consultation with a seasoned Texas personal injury attorney. Tell us your story, and we will explain your options under Texas state law. There is no obligation.

And unless we get you money for your injuries, you owe us nothing. Your rights can be lost if you wait. Call us for a free consultation.