College Student Housing and Apartments – Landlord Liability for Injuries & Accidents in Pennsylvania & New Jersey

Are landlords liable when a college student is injured in an off-campus house or apartment? Under Pennsylvania and New Jersey law, landlords may be liable for injuries to college students and their guests.

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School is back in session, and many college students are living on their own for the first time. No more dorms. Also, many college students are on their own when it comes to vetting landlords and signing leases. But what happens when an accident occurs on the premises and someone is hurt?

In this legal article, our Pennsylvania & New Jersey injury lawyers discuss landlord liability for accidents and injuries that occur at houses and apartments rented to college students. The following legal discussion does not apply to housing provided by colleges or universities, i.e., dorms.

Accidents, Mishaps & College Students

Accidents and mishaps or freak accidents can happen to anyone, especially to college students living on their own for the first time in a house or apartment. In many instances, an accident happens due to no fault of the student. A staircase might buckle while a student is walking into his or her apartment or house. Injuries, including fatalities, often happen at apartments. Accidents can happen on balconies, roof tops, front lobbies, etc.  Landlords and property owners, as well as tenants, may be held liable.

Related: Civil Lawsuits for College Crime (Assault, Sexual Assault, Alcohol Accidents) Part 1

In recent years, there have been several cases where property owners were held liable for students falling off balconies at apartments. In Florida, a landlord and fraternity were found liable after a student fell from a balcony and sustained major injuries. In Missouri, a property owner agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a student who fell from a balcony due to a defective railing.

It’s important to note that when accidents happen at houses or apartments, the tenant may have a valid lawsuit against the responsible party. In addition, a guest of a tenant may also have a valid lawsuit as well.

For example, a college student living in an apartment has a friend over. The two of them decide to go up to the roof of the building, which isn’t supposed to be accessible to anyone other than the landlord or property owner. While on the roof, one of them trips and starts falling off the roof. The other one tries to help, and they both fall off the roof. Both are killed.

This may sound like a simple case where the students were solely responsible for their own deaths. However, an investigation reveals that tenants were known to hang out on the roof, and the landlord had posted signs indicating that roof access was prohibited. In months and years past, tenants held parties on the roof and students had been reported throwing items off the roof. Despite knowing about these problems, the landlord failed to restrict access completely by locking the roof hatch door or otherwise sealing it shut. Even though the students were responsible for causing their own deaths, the landlord may bear some legal responsibility. The families of both the tenant and his guest may have valid lawsuits against the landlord. Because the landlord knew that tenants hung out on the roof, threw parties up there and even threw things off the roof, it had a duty to prevent roof access. The hallmark of liability is foreseeability. Was it foreseeable that an injury or accident would occur?

For more information about injury lawsuits against landlords, visit our business liability law library. Contact our Pennsylvania and New Jersey injury lawyers to discuss a potential case. FREE CONSULTATIONS

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