Dealing With Winter-Weather Related Injuries As A Tenant

Posted on: 18 October 2016

As the colder months approach, a significant hazard for many people will be ice and snow. If you are a tenant, you may not realize the boundary between your obligations and those of your property manager to maintain a safe property. Knowing the difference can help keep you safe and when it is appropriate to contact a lawyer.

Property Management Responsibility

Many people who have never been a tenant or have never had the misfortune of dealing with hazardous conditions while not owning their own residence may be unaware of the property management's responsibility. Although some liability may be different between jurisdictions and as mandated by your leasing agreement, it is the responsibility of the property management to maintain safe grounds. After winter weather has occurred resulting in snow and/or ice accumulation, it is the property management's responsibility to make reasonable efforts to clear hazards within a reasonable time.

Walkways, parking areas, and any surfaces necessary should be shoveled and salted to accelerate the melting of ice and snow. Ideally, property management should use proactive measures, such as salting and/or sanding walkways before the precipitation falls or at the beginning of the precipitation if wind would blow away pre-treatments. What is considered a reasonable time is subjective. Property management is likely not obligated to treat their property until the precipitation stops falling and the sun is out; otherwise, it would be an unnecessary hazard to workers.

Tenant Responsibilities

As a tenant, it is your obligation to use common sense practices when walking around outside of the building. If you do not need to leave your residence while there is ice and snow on the ground, you should stay in your residence. Unfortunately, if an accident were to occur and it is determined leaving your residence was genuinely unnecessary, this could increase your culpability during an accident. Another common sense approach is to stick with established walkways, if they are clear. Taking an unusual shortcut behind the building or through the grass could increase your culpability if you were to slip and fall.

If you know you will need to leave your residence eventually and it does not appear the walkways will be clear, make a point to call the property management for assistance. Even without any accidents on the property, you want to have documentation that you have tried to get the property management to abide by their obligations of maintaining a safe property. If you can convince other neighbors to call property management, this can also be helpful.

Document Incidents

If you were to fall on the ice, make sure you have significant documentation of the incident. Seek immediate medical attention for significant injuries, such as suspected sprains, broken bones, or if you hit your head. Ideally, it is best to call emergency responders than attempt to drive yourself or have a friend transport you to the hospital. You may need additional witnesses who can testify to the condition of the property when you fell. Additionally, emergency responders will make a notation of where they picked you up, which could be disputed if you go to the hospital on your own.

Have a trusted friend, neighbor, or family member photograph the property without putting themselves in harm's way. With a high-quality camera, they can likely photograph the walkways and parking area from the street without exiting their vehicle or from a balcony. Whenever possible, do not return to your residence until it has been cleared of any hazards. Stay with a friend or in a hotel. If you return to walk on unsafe walkways after an accident, it may be used against you as evidence that you are careless.

As a tenant, you often do not have the same responsibility of clearing walkways of ice and snow as someone who owns their residence. Try to remain safe on poorly maintained property and if an accident occurs, be sure to obtain as much documentation as possible to have a solid case. Contact a law firm like Clearfield & Kofsky for more information.