Property Managers & Premises Liability
In a densely populated city like Chicago, a lot of people rent apartments or own condominiums that are part of a building with common spaces that someone is responsible to maintain. When hallways, stairwells, lobbies, elevators, or other common spaces aren’t properly maintained and you get hurt, who do you look to for compensation of your injuries when the property owner is some corporation in another state? In Illinois, the answer may be the property manager.
Property managers or property management companies may be liable for injuries caused by negligence in maintaining the premises when the property manager has taken on the mantle of responsibility for performing repairs and making sure the premises stay in compliance with building codes.
Duty of Care
The Illinois Premises Liability Act, 740 ILCS 130, says that the owner or occupier of a property owes a duty of reasonable care to people who lawfully enter or visit the premises. In general, this means the property owner or occupier has a responsibility to repair problems that make the property unsafe or may result in injury, or to warn guests about the hazard so that they can avoid the danger. However, the owner or occupier is only liable for conditions that are known or should be known, and for injuries that are reasonably foreseeable.
An owner or occupier typically is not liable for injuries when:
- You are aware of the unsafe condition before you get hurt and you fail to take reasonable caution to protect yourself
- The unsafe condition is open and obvious and you could reasonably be expected to have noticed and avoided it
- The owner or occupier had no knowledge of the unsafe condition and couldn’t reasonably be expected to know about it
- You misused the premises in some way and caused the unsafe condition that injured you
Some common defects in premises that result in injuries and premises liability claims include:
- Inadequate or broken lighting
- Cracks or holes in floors, sidewalks, or parking lots
- Broken or missing handrails
- Broken or missing stairs
- Obstacles or puddles of liquid left in walkways or on stairs
- Inadequate security
When Are Property Managers Liable?
In some circumstances, the duty of reasonable care may extend to a property manager, but whether a property manager is liable for injuries on the premises will depend upon the relationship the property manager has with the owner. If the property manager is an employee of the owner, the owner usually will continue to be liable for injuries caused by negligence under the principle that an employer is responsible for the actions of its employees or agents.
If the property manager is an independent contractor or a management company, the property manager may be liable for injuries if the manager agreed to be responsible for maintenance of the property, or agreed to indemnify the owner in the event someone was injured because of the manager or management company’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional action.
Condominium Owners Associations
In a condominium building where an owners association maintains common areas, the association may bear some liability in the event of an injury. If the association contracts with a management company, you may be able to make a claim against the management company, but that will depend upon the terms of the agreement between the association and the property manager.
How a Lawyer Can Help
When you’re injured because of an unsafe condition on a property that’s owned by one person or company but managed by another person or company, questions about liability can become tricky. Whether you’re successful in getting compensation for your injuries may turn on fine points and nuances of the law. It’s important to make sure that you identify the right parties — and all of the parties — who may bear responsibility for what happened to you.
An experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer who knows the details of premises liability law can help make sure that you pursue all of your options for compensation. With your lawyer’s help, you may be able to get paid for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life.