In Georgia, landlords are required by law to meet certain safety and maintenance requirements. When a landlord negligently fails to keep his premises reasonably safe for use and someone is injured or killed while they were on or near property, they may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against the landlord. In Georgia, landlord premises liability lawsuits and the recovery of damages depends on whether a landlord is an “absentee” or “in possession” landlord.
What Is an “In Possession” Landlord?
An “in possession” landlord is either a person or entity that occupies the property or otherwise maintains substantial ownership and control over the property, even after it is rented out to a tenant. Reserving the right to periodically inspect the property does not usually constitute being “in possession” of the property.
Responsibilities of an “In Possession” Landlord
A landlord that is “in possession” of a property is usually governed by the stricter standards that apply to property owners. Georgia law states that a property owner must exercise ordinary care to keep a property safe for any “invitee” who approaches, exits, or is present on the property.
An invitee is one who is induced by express or implied invitation to come onto an owner’s property. During the term of their lease, a tenant would be an invitee of the apartment, condominium, or office building where they live or work. Under this standard, the landlord owes a duty of care to keep his premises safe. He is liable for damages when injuries are caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care.
The duty to keep premises safe is not limited to just the construction and maintenance of buildings or other physical structures located on the property. The owner/landlord is obligated to keep outside ramps and stairs, driveways, sidewalks, curbs, and parking lots in good repair. For any lawns, landscaping must also be kept in a safe condition. Additionally, Georgia courts have held that the duty to keep premises safe may also include the obligation to provide adequate security and required fire protection.
What Is an Absentee Landlord?
An absentee landlord is either a person or entity that owns and then rents out property. If the landlord does not occupy the property and does not exercise much day-to-day control over the property, they are considered to be “not in possession” and therefore absent. Simply put, if the landlord does not live, reside somewhere on the property, or access the property most days, they are an absentee landlord.
Responsibilities of an Absentee Landlord
Georgia statute states that when a landlord is not in possession of rental property, his or her liability is limited to those damages from “defective construction” or from failure to “keep the premises in repair.” This is a lower standard of care than would be required if they were in possession of the property.
An absentee landlord may be liable for defective construction if they:
- Did the construction work themselves;
- Directly supervised the construction work; or
- Had knowledge of the defective construction.
Keeping the Premises in Repair
In addition to construction defects, injuries can also occur when a landlord fails to repair a hazardous condition on the property. In order to be liable for failure to repair, Georgia courts have generally found that the landlord must have had knowledge of the hazardous condition needing repair. If the landlord knew about a potentially hazardous condition and did not take steps to repair it within a reasonable amount of time, the landlord may be found liable for resulting injuries. In some cases, landlords have also been found liable for hazards they should have known about based on performing regular inspections.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
If you, a friend, or a family member have been injured while on someone else’s property, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free consultation by calling (404) 389-1035.