The Lawletter Vol 42 No 8
The general rule is that "[w]hile a landlord is not a guarantor for the safety of those persons who might be expected to come upon its property, it does have a duty to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition." 49 Am. Jur. 2d Landlord and Tenant § 454 (Westlaw May 2017 Update) (citing Rodriguez v. Providence Hous. Auth., 824 A.2d 452 (R.I. 2003)). A recent decision by a Georgia appellate court in a deck collapse case indicates that unless the evidence shows that an out-of-possession lessor of residential real estate knew or had reason to know that a potentially dangerous condition existed with respect to the premises or an improvement thereto, the landlord cannot be held liable for injuries that were suffered by a guest of the tenant due to the alleged failure to repair the premises or make an improvement. Aldredge v. Byrd, 341 Ga. App. 300, 799 S.E.2d 263 (2017), reconsideration denied (Apr. 26, 2017).
In Aldredge, social guests of a tenant sued the landlord for injuries that they suffered when an outdoor deck on the leased premises collapsed. In reaching its decision that the out-of-possession landlord could not be charged with liability for faulty construction of or failure to repair the deck, the Aldredge court pointed out that the landlord hired an independent contractor to build the deck and had no reason to know that a potentially dangerous condition existed with respect to it. Id. at 304-05, 799 S.E.2d at 267-68. According to the court, "it is well-settled that the landlord is not an insurer of its tenants' safety, and liability arises only where the landlord is on notice of a defect and the consequent necessity for repairs." Id. at 303, 799 S.E.2d at 267. Even if a landlord receives actual or constructive notice that the premises are not in repair, the lessor has a duty to inspect and investigate in order to make such repairs as are necessary to assure the safety of the tenant and the tenant's invitees. Id. at 304, 799 S.E.2d at 267.
An excellent article on how to prove that a landlord knew about an unsafe condition on leased real property can be found at Mark S. Dennison, Constructive Notice to Landlord of Unsafe Condition on Leased Premises, 44 Am. Jur. Proof of Facts 3d 449 (1997 & Westlaw June 2017 Update).