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Landlord is liable for negligence

February 08, 2009|Janet Portman | Inman News

Question: I'm the president of our local tenants union. We recently succeeded in persuading our landlord to change his lease form, which had several illegal clauses in it, including one in which the tenant agreed to absolve the landlord of all liability in the event of injury due to the landlord's carelessness. I think we should pursue the matter and sue the landlord for leading tenants to believe, all these years, that they had no recourse in such situations. Do we have a case?

Answer: As you have learned, a lease clause that relieves the landlord from responsibility for the consequences of his negligence would not be enforced by a judge. A tenant whose lease included this clause, but who had a bona fide case against the landlord for injuries (suffered as the result of the landlord's failure to maintain a safe building, for example), would have seen his case go ahead despite this clause.

It's possible that there may have been individual tenants who had plausible personal injury claims but decided not to pursue them, thinking incorrectly that the lease clause would bar them. These tenants or former tenants may have a case against the landlord, but it would primarily be for the underlying injury, not the fact that the landlord tried to prevent the lawsuit.

But you're asking about a different type of lawsuit -- a complaint on the part of all of you that you've been misled. It's doubtful that you'd be able to collect, because unless you can show that you've been harmed, you have no damages. "No harm, no foul" does have its place in the law.

-- Janet Portman, Inman News

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janet@inman.com

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