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3.9-7  Status of Parties - Business Invitee of Tenant

Revised to January 1, 2008

In this case, the landlord, <name of landlord>, leased the property to <name of tenant>, the tenant.  If you find that the plaintiff was on the premises as an invitee (as previously defined) of the tenant, it was the legal duty of the tenant to use reasonable care to keep the premises reasonably safe for invitees.  A question raised in this case is whether the lessor (landlord) also had a duty to the tenant's invitee.  A landlord is liable if all of the following conditions exist:

  1. if the landlord knows, or should know in the exercise of reasonable care, that conditions exist on the premises that are likely to cause injury to persons entering upon the premises, and

  2. that the purpose for which the premises are leased involves the fact that people will be invited upon the premises to do business with the tenant as patrons or customers, and

  3. that the landlord knows or should know that the tenant cannot reasonably be expected to remedy or guard against injury from the defect.

If the defect is in the structure of the building, it might take a substantial structural change to make it reasonably safe for use, and the tenant might have no right to make such a change.  If the defect is one which obviously endangers the tenant's patrons and one which the tenant can easily make, then the landlord might reasonably expect that the tenant would take steps to guard patrons and customers from danger.  This question of what the landlord may reasonably expect is a question of fact to be decided not only from the nature of the defect but from all the circumstances in the case.

A landlord is not liable for a defect arising from ordinary wear and tear during the term of the lease.  However, if the lease expires and the landlord renews it, when the landlord knows or should know of such a defect which is the result of ordinary wear and tear, the landlord is liable if those three conditions which I have already defined for you co-exist.

Even if the landlord has an express or implied agreement with the tenant to make repairs, the landlord is not liable for failure to make a repair on the leased premises unless the landlord has knowledge or has been given notice (actual or constructive) that the repair was necessary.

In determining between the landlord and the tenant which of them owed a duty to the plaintiff, the general rule is that the tenant takes the premises as (he/she) finds them and bears the risk of any defective conditions that are within the area under the tenant's exclusive possession and control.  This rule, however, does not apply to defects which are the result of faulty design or disrepair and which existed at the beginning of the tenancy, were not discoverable by the tenant on reasonable inspection, and were known, either actually or constructively, to the landlord.  Such defects are the responsibility of the landlord, provided the three tests outlined earlier have been met.

Authority

See DesMarchais v. Daly, 135 Conn. 623, 625-26 (1949) (duty to tenant's invitee); Webel v. Yale, 125 Conn. 515, 524-25 (1939) (same); Thomas v. Roper, 162 Conn. 343, 349-50 (1972) (duty as between landlord and tenant).
 


 

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