Maine’s Highest Court Issues Decision on Liability of Landlords in Premises Liability Cases

The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine, the State’s highest court, recently issued a decision on the liability of landlords in Maine premises liability cases. The issue before the court was whether reserving access to the premises for inspections and repairs created a dispute about whether the landlords had exclusive control over the premises.

In that case, a woman was visiting her daughter and son-in-law at a house they were renting. She was going down the stairs in the house and fell off the landing at the bottom of the stairs. The landing step was eleven inches tall, which was taller than the rest of the stairs on the staircase, and did not comply with the applicable building codes. The woman filed a premises liability lawsuit against the landlords alleging that they were liable for the injuries she suffered due to the fall.

Under Maine premises liability law, a landlord is liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition on property under a tenant’s exclusive control if the landlord: 1) fails to disclose to the tenant the existence of a latent defect that a landlord knows or should have known existed and which the tenant did not know of and should not have reasonably discovered; 2) gratuitously undertakes to make repairs and negligently completes the repairs; or 3) expressly agrees to maintain the premises in good repair. A landlord is liable for injuries to the tenant, as well as the tenant’s guests and others on the premises with the tenant’s consent. Exclusive control generally refers to the power over the premises that a landlord reserves according to the terms of the lease.

The Court’s Decision

According to the lease the tenants signed, the landlords had access to the property “for purposes of repair and inspection.” In addition, the tenants were required to inform the landlords of any issues with the property. The court held that, despite the language in the lease granting access to the landlords for purposes of inspection and repair, the tenants maintained exclusive control of the property, including the interior staircase. The court also held that the lease, which reserved a right of access to the landlords in the event that repairs were needed, did not expressly require that they undertake any repairs or contain an express agreement that the landlords would maintain the premises in good repair. Finally, the court found the house was not in an unreasonably dangerous condition. The landlords did not promise to repair the step and it was not a hidden unreasonably dangerous condition.

Contact a Maine Premises Liability Attorney

If you have been injured due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The law firm of Peter Thompson & Associates has successfully settled hundreds of cases involving injuries caused by dangerous conditions on properties. Our firm uses leading experts in the field of property maintenance and building codes to assess whether a client’s fall was the result of neglect by owners of land and buildings. To schedule a free consultation with a Maine premises liability attorney, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or contact us through our online form.



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