When a consumer purchases a home, it can be a life changing experience. From making mortgage payments, to paying property taxes, to being responsible for maintenance and renovations, home ownership brings with it a great deal of responsibility. One component of that responsibility doesn’t always occur to many consumers is their potential liability should someone be injured on their property.
A perfectly responsible homeowner could find themselves suddenly and without warning for very large amounts of money if an accident occurs on their property. Oftentimes, these injuries are not guests within your home, but rather other persons outside of your home on your property. Examples could include: mail carriers, children, solicitors, or runners.
Obviously, a homeowner cannot control at all times who comes onto or off of their property. So, the sorts of defects that can lead to liability are what we will focus on today. If there is something on or about your property that could lead people to get hurt, these are the sort of problems you may need to address. Examples might in include: a broken or rickety step on your porch, loose of flimsy gutters, an unfenced swimming pool, or unnecessarily dangerous foreign objects on your property.
Now that we have an idea of who could get hurt and what might hurt them, we will turn briefly to the law. First, the homeowner must be on notice that their property poses a danger. The defect must be visible and apparent, and it must exist for a long enough time that the owner knew about it and could have fixed it. To give an example, if someone is stepping on to your porch, and it breaks with no warning, you would not be liable, because you had no notice there was a defect. However, if you know you have a broken step, and leave it unrepaired for months on end, if someone were to be hurt when they stepped upon it, you may be liable for their injury.
Finally, there are some incidental injuries which may occur on your property which you would not be liable for, regardless of your notice. In a famous tort law case, and our final example, two children were playing in a yard. One found a golf club laying in the yard, and was practicing his swing when he accidentally hit his young companion, badly injuring her. The court ruled that the burden of making yards completely free of objects was far too great, and that homeowner was not liable for the injury.
This article was written by Nathanial D. Chiaravalloti is a law student at St. John’s University School of Law