When a tenant is injured on a piece of leased property they may decide to seek recourse from their landlord. However, a tenant should carefully review the lease before doing this.
As the owner or custodian, a landlord is generally liable for damages caused by unsafe conditions in the property when those conditions exist due to the landlord’s negligence or failure to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the property. Not surprisingly, this law is often modified by the lease through clauses that limit the landlord’s liability or shift responsibility for the condition of the property to the lessee. However, the enforceability of these clauses is often hotly contested.
While the law provides no general prohibition on clauses that attempt to relieve a party of liability for damages caused by their negligence, the legislature has enacted such a prohibition in the context of a lease. Specifically, Revised Statute 9:3221 provides that, under certain circumstances, a landlord may still be responsible for damages even if the lease limits liability and even if the lease shifts responsibility for the condition of the premise to the tenant. This liability can be established in the event a landlord knew or should have known of the unsafe condition but failed to fix it within a reasonable time.
The bottom line is that Louisiana law governing a landlord’s liability isn’t entirely clear-cut. However, one thing is clear: if a tenant notices an unsafe condition in the property they’re renting, they should promptly notify the landlord in writing so the problem can be fixed and injury avoided. If the injury has already occurred, one should apprise himself of his rights under the lease and seek advice from an attorney.