Q: Under what circumstances can I sue my landlord for tripping or slipping on my landlord’s premises?
In New Jersey, there is never a simple answer to this question and every case is unique. In any rental building, whether it is residential or commercial, in the part of the property you live or where you run your business, there will be common areas such as walkways, sidewalks, eating areas or smoking areas.
First, you have to determine where it happened. Did it happen within the leased premises or did it happen in the common area?
Typically, the lease that you have with a landlord or owner defines whose responsibilities are certain parts of the property. It will describe who is responsible for the rented part of the property and who is responsible for the maintenance of the common areas.
The lease is the starting point in finding out who’s responsibility it is to maintain the part of the property where you slipped or tripped and fell. It may be the responsibility of the owner, the landlord, the maintenance company, or the management company to maintain common areas shared by multiple tenants.
Problems within your leased premises, whether it is commercial or residential, will largely be a contractual matter. In other words, it is likely that the lease will define who is responsible for the maintenance of the leased premises. For example, if you tripped over a tear in the carpet, the lease usually dictates whether it is the tenant’s responsibility or the landlord’s responsibility.
The lease in landlord/tenant scenarios is the starting point – sometimes there are multiple leases. There are also master leases and subcontractor leases. It can get very complex depending on the property and the lease arrangement.