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Can a Tenant Sue a Landlord for an Injury in Missouri?

A tenant may sue a landlord for an injury in Missouri, but to succeed, the tenant must prove that the landlord owed a duty to the tenant. The general rule in Missouri is that a landlord does not owe a duty to their tenants and the landlord will not be liable for personal injuries caused by the dangerous conditions of the premises. The rationale is that once a tenant leases property from the landlord, the tenant is in exclusive possession and control of their property and thus solely responsible for maintaining, repairing, and keeping their property in good condition. Of course, the application of this rule varies on a case-by-case basis.  

There are three exceptions to this rule in which a landlord may be found to owe a duty to their tenant and open themselves to liability: 

  1. When the landlord had knowledge of a dangerous condition and that condition would not be discovered by the tenant, and the landlord fails to disclose the dangerous condition to the tenant: If the landlord knows of a dangerous condition on their property that is hidden or would not be obvious to the tenant, the landlord’s only obligation in that situation is to notify and warn the tenant of the dangerous condition. Examples include “WET FLOOR” or “WATCH YOUR STEP” signage. 
  2. When the tenant is injured in a common area: Landlords are typically liable for injuries that occur by reason of known defects in common areas of the rental property. Common areas are those that are used by all tenants in the building and are not under the exclusive possession and control of one tenant. For example, a Missouri court refused to hold a landlord liable for a tenant’s injury after they fell on the front stoop of the rental premises because the stoop served that tenant’s premises only and the stoop was not subject to control of the landlord. In order to qualify as a common area, an area must be open to the public or used by one or more tenants. Examples of common areas include lobbies, hallways, stairways, laundry rooms, and parking lots. Because the landlord is usually the only one responsible for maintaining, repairing, and keeping these common areas in good shape, they open themselves to liability for injuries that occur in these areas. 
  3. When a landlord is responsible for making repairs but negligently fails to do so: If a landlord and tenant have a contractual agreement that the landlord will be the one solely responsible for repairs on the property occupied by the tenant, then the landlord is obligated to make repairs and keep the property in a reasonably safe condition. However, keep in mind that such contracts often impose a duty on the tenant to notify the tenant when such repairs are needed and may require the tenant to submit a maintenance or repair request. Additionally, the duty to repair can arise if the landlord regularly has access to the tenant’s property. An example of this would be a landlord keeping a key to the tenant’s apartment in order to gain access in the case of an emergency, to make unannounced visits for inspections, or to do any repairs they might think necessary.

Legal Obligations of Landlords

  • To keep common areas such as lobbies, hallways, stairways, and parking lots in a reasonably safe condition 
  • To assure the tenant’s residential property is habitable and fit for living (meaning there are no dangerous or unsanitary conditions on the premises materially affecting the life, health and safety of the tenant) 
  • To warn tenants of dangerous conditions that only the landlord has knowledge of 
  • If the landlord agrees to be primarily responsible for repairs, the landlord is obligated to make repairs in a timely manner, to carry out repairs using ordinary care, and to keep the property in a reasonably safe condition.

Examples of Landlord Negligence

Below are some examples where a court could possibly find landlord negligence: 

  • Agreeing to undertake a repair for a tenant and failing to make the repair in a reasonable time after receiving a timely repair request 
  • Agreeing to undertake a repair for a tenant and performing the repair negligently  
  • Failing to clear ice and snow from a parking lot after having reasonable time to do so  
  • Failing to install a handrail in common stairways  
  • Failing to notify tenants about hidden dangerous conditions such as an uneven floor, a basement access door located under a rug, unexpected high steps, or drop-offs 
  • Failing to remove accumulated liquid  that poses a slip and fall hazard in common areas after a reasonable time 
  • Failing to warn of a wet or waxed floor in common areas 
  • Failing to remove mold  
  • Failing to remove rodents  
  • Failing to repair a hole in the roof 
  • Failing to repair water leaks 
  • Failing to repair broken water heaters resulting in no hot and cold running water for tenants  
  • Failing to repair plumbing 
  • Failing to repair faulty smoke detectors 
  • Failing to install smoke detectors 
  • Failing to repair potholes in a parking lot 
  • Failing to provide lighting in a parking lot 
  • Failing to repair uneven sidewalks in common areas  
  • Faulty electrical wiring  
  • Failing to install an alarm system  
  • Failing to lock doors or prevent non-tenants and other members of the public from wrongfully entering the property  
  • Loose, faulty or poorly constructed handrails in common stairways  
  • Poorly constructed or repaired steps in common stairways 
  • Violating state laws or local ordinances

Keep in mind the above scenarios are only examples and landlord negligence is not always guaranteed to be found in those situations. Numerous factors such as the following must still be considered:  

  • Whether the landlord was responsible for repairing the area in question 
  • Whether the tenant’s injuries were actually caused by the landlord’s actions or inaction  
  • Whether injury to a tenant was foreseeable  
  • Whether the landlord could reasonably repair the dangerous condition 
  • What the terms of the lease agreement stated in terms of repairs  
  • The actions of both parties during the course of the lease (Had the landlord made repairs in the past, or was it always the tenant who took care of it? Did the landlord receive a repair request and ignore it?) 

Additional Legal Considerations for Tenant Claims Against Landlords

  • Comparative Fault In situations where a tenant contributed to their own injuries, Missouri utilizes the doctrine of comparative fault. This means if you contributed to your injuries, the amount of money you can recover for those injuries may be reduced. For example, if your personal injury claim is litigated and proceeds to a jury trial, the jury may be asked to consider what percentage of the accident was your fault. If a jury finds you 25% at fault for your injuries, you will only be awarded 75% of your damages. An example in the context of a landlord-tenant scenario might be a tenant texting or looking at their cell phone while they were walking down a faulty staircase. If a jury found the tenant to be 25% at fault for not watching their step, the tenant would still be entitled to 75% of the monetary award. 
  • Landlord Retaliation Though it is illegal in almost every state for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for asserting their legal rights, unfortunately, some landlords still attempt to evict tenants for filing injury claims. A tenant in this situation should be sure to review a copy of their lease and maintain an excellent record of all rent paid and complaints made to the landlord. A landlord should not harass you or intimidate you for bringing a claim. Keep all evidence of potential harassment. 
  • Insurance Typically, landlords carry insurance that covers the cost of injury claims. When signing a lease, be sure to ask the landlord whether they have insurance. If the landlord has insurance, once you notify the landlord that you were injured on the property, they’ll notify their insurance. However, if they refuse to do so, you may be forced to file a lawsuit to get the insurance information.

Get Help With Your Case From a Slip and Fall Lawyer

At Brown & Crouppen Law Firm, our slip and fall lawyers have a proven track record of holding landlords and property owners accountable, and have helped clients recover millions as a result of settlements and verdicts. 

If you believe that a landlord or property owner may be responsible for your or a loved one’s injuries after an accident, request a free case evaluation from a St. Louis slip and fall attorney at Brown & Crouppen Law Firm. Our legal team can help answer legal questions, determine if your eligible to pursue compensation, and build a strong case.

FAQs & Tenant Rights

Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that injured tenants have regarding their claim.

CAN MY LANDLORD EVICT ME FOR BRINGING A CLAIM AGAINST THEM?

Though it is illegal in almost every state for a landlord to retaliate against a tenant for asserting their legal rights, unfortunately some landlords still attempt to evict tenants for filing injury claims. A tenant in this situation should be sure to review a copy of their lease and maintain an excellent record of all rent paid and complaints made to the landlord. A landlord should not harass you or intimidate you for bringing a claim. Keep all evidence of potential harassment.

HOW CAN I GET MY LANDLORD TO PAY FOR MY MEDICAL BILLS?

If you were injured on a rental property, your landlord may be on the hook to pay for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. If the landlord or property manager delivered the property in a dangerous condition or was negligent in maintaining the property, and the negligence or condition of the property caused the injury, then the landlord should be held responsible. Typically, landlords will carry insurance that covers the cost of injury claims. When signing a lease, be sure to ask the landlord whether they have insurance. If the landlord has insurance, once you notify the landlord that you were injured on the property, they’ll notify their insurance. However, if they refuse to do so, you may be forced to file a lawsuit to get the insurance information.

CAN I STOP PAYING RENT IF I’M INJURED IN MY RENTAL HOME?

Tenants cannot withhold rent simply for being injured, but in some cases, tenants may withhold rent to pay for repairs necessary to make the home safe then deduct the cost of repairs from their rent, otherwise referred to as “repair and deduct.” The landlord may initiate the eviction process though, so be prepared to be able to provide receipts for the repairs and pictures showing the condition of the premises both before and after the repair. In some states, the tenant may be required to provide notice to the landlord of the defect, so they have adequate time to make repairs.

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