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How Much Liability Can a Seattle Landlord Have in an Injury Claim?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on March 9, 2021

When you move into a new apartment building or rent out an office space, you do so trusting that the property is secure and free of any danger. You justifiably believe that you can go about your day as normal without the risk of suffering a serious injury.

Sadly, that is not always the case in Seattle.

Whether you are dealing with an older structure that is out of code or one of the many new buildings that have sprung up throughout the city, negligent landlords cut corners and put tenants at risk of suffering serious injuries. When this occurs, you should consider your legal rights to file a premises liability claim.

The Responsibilities of a Seattle Landlord

Under Washington state’s premises liability laws, a landlord can be held liable for injuries sustained by a tenant if the landlord was aware of a safety hazard – or reasonably should have been aware of the hazard – and failed to fix it in a timely manner and warn tenants of the danger. The state requires landlords to make their premises “fit for human habitation,” meaning the property is safe for tenants to live on, according to RCW 59.18.060. Failure to do so can make the landlord liable for a tenant’s injuries.

Common examples of landlord negligence include:

Within Seattle, every landlord must abide by the city’s Housing and Building Maintenance Code as enforced by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI). Among these laws are guidelines regarding building maintenance and repairs, tenant rights, and landlord-tenant agreements. In summary, these laws require landlords to:

  • Ensure that the property is “fit for human habitation”
  • Maintain “common areas” by guaranteeing that they are “reasonably clean and safe”
  • Change the locks and keys of the premises “upon a change of tenants”
  • Install smoke detectors and inform tenants of how to maintain them
  • Oversee repairs for the “roof, walls and foundation” and the maintenance of the property’s electrical equipment, plumbing, and heating systems
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms

If the landlord of a Seattle apartment building or rental home violated these requirements, and that violation resulted in your injuries, then you would be eligible to pursue a civil claim against the landlord. However, it is important to fully review who is responsible for your injuries and what responsibilities your landlord had to protect you from harm.

The Importance of Determining Liability

One major roadblock in premises liability cases is determining who is responsible for the property. While you may immediately assume that the landlord of a house or apartment building will be liable for an injury, these cases can be significantly more complex than that. Landlords often rent out multiple units on the same property, such as a main house, an apartment above a garage, or a mother-in-law house. While the landlord has a duty of care to each tenant within their own leased unit and the common areas, that duty only extends to safety hazards caused by the landlord.

For example, let’s say that the tenant in the main house broke one of the porch steps while moving furniture. If the tenant did not inform the landlord of the broken step, then the landlord could not be found liable for failing to repair it. If a tenant in another unit tripped on the damaged step, then his claim would be against the tenant of the main house, not the landlord, for failing to warn him of the danger and for not reporting it to the property owner for repair. In addition, tenants can be found liable for any damage caused by themselves or their guests.

Contact an Experienced Seattle Injury Attorney Today

Premises liability cases can be extremely complex and require a thorough review of every detail to determine if a landlord was liable for an accident. Seattle and the state of Washington have several laws that require landlords to maintain habitable premises, but there are exceptions to these rules that can impact your case. If you or someone you love was injured due to a negligent property owner, it is vital that you speak to a Seattle personal injury attorney right away.

At Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S., we can utilize our more than 40 years of experience to investigate your case and explain your legal options. We are staunch advocates for accident victims throughout Seattle, Tacoma, and Renton, and if a property owner caused your injuries, then we can hold them accountable in a premises liability claim. To discuss all of your options, call our office at (425) 228-3860 and toll-free at (888) 228-3860 and schedule a free consultation.

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