What Reasonable Care Is Expected of a Homeowner?
- Posted on: Oct 15 2019
As a homeowner, you have a duty to provide a safe environment for those who visit your home and your land. If someone is injured on your property and can prove that you were in breach of this duty, you may have to pay out a large amount of compensation. However, it’s important that you understand that you do not owe everyone the same duty of care. Depending on the person and their reason for being on your property, you may not necessarily be in breach of duty of care even if they were injured.
If you invite someone to your property, you owe them the highest level of duty of care. This means anyone you invite over to your home—friend, family member, co-worker, service provider, or repair expert—has the right to expect to be safe there. This means you must do your due diligence and repair any hazards that could harm the invitee. If you’re unable to repair them before the invitee arrives, you must make certain they are aware of the hazard and do whatever you can to minimize the potential danger, such as putting up cones or blocking the area off.
Some examples of this duty of care include letting someone know if the floor is wet, keeping uncontrolled animals put away, filling in or at least marking any holes in the ground leading to your home, and repairing damaged steps on any stairways. One key part of the duty of care for invitees is that you must inspect the property for unknown dangers and repair or warn invitees of these dangers.
A licensee is someone who is on your property for a non-business and non-commercial reason but may not have been directly invited. This includes someone who is at your home for a social gathering such as a baby shower. You may be hosting the event, but you may not have necessarily invited people to your home. You do owe these individuals a duty of care, but it is less than you would owe an invitee. You only have to provide “reasonable” care and do not have to go out of your way to inspect the property for unknown dangers. What is “reasonable” is often left for the courts to decide in each case, but most go by what an average person would do in the circumstances.
Finally, you owe very little to trespassers. If you know they are on your property, you do have a duty to alert them to any man-made hazards that could have lethal effects, such as an electric fence. If you do not know the person is on your property and they are injured, you may not owe any duty of care. If the trespasser is a child, you do have additional responsibilities.
Need More Information?
If you have questions about your duty of care, the attorneys at Held & Hines LLP can help. Contact us today to discuss your legal needs.