A residential landlord may be liable to you, your family, and your guests for any injury sustained on the residential complex including injuries caused by a slip and fall in an Ottawa rental property. It is important to note that liability is not automatic and a landlord is not an insurer or guarantor of your safety or that of your family and guests. However, if the reason for the fall or injury arises from a landlord’s failure to properly maintain the property then the landlord may indeed by liable to anyone who is hurt on the property.
Landlords can be held responsible if neglect causes a slip and fall injury
A landlord of a rental property is not protected from being sued or being liable for injuries sustained by a tenant, family of the tenant, or guests of the tenant(s), simply because the tenant is in possession of the rental unit. Residential leases will sometimes contain clauses or terms that appear to limit or attempt to insulate the landlord against liability for injuries on the rental property. However, such clauses are unlikely to shield a landlord from liability (wholly or partially even). In the residential tenancies context, a landlord cannot waive or transfer responsibility for the condition of a rental unit to a tenant or otherwise shift legal liability to a tenant through lease clauses. This is because the Residential Tenancies Act limits or makes void such clauses as being contrary to the requirements of the Residential Tenancies Act.
Who can be sued after a slip and fall injury in Ottawa?
A prime example of this is the lease clause that seeks or purports to make a tenant responsible to shovel snow and maintain the stairs and walkways of a proper free and clear of ice. In an appeal case, a tenant had sued a landlord for injuries that the tenant sustained slipping and falling on the property in winter. The tenant’s slip and fall lawyer argued that the injuries were caused by a failure to properly clear the ice and snow. The landlord defended by arguing that the lease required the tenant to maintain the property and specifically to deal with ice and snow. The landlord argued that the tenant’s slip and fall was the result of the tenant failing to maintain the property in accordance with the lease agreement (it was in writing!). The landlord was unsuccessful in this defense to the tenant’s claim.
A landlord is responsible for maintenance and is unable to shift that responsibility to a tenant as a condition of a residential lease. A landlord may, however, contract with a tenant (separate from the lease) for the tenant to do maintenance work. A landlord cannot require a tenant to enter into such a contract. If the landlord has contracted reasonably with a tenant or other third party for maintenance work to be done on the property then a landlord may raise, as a defense to any claim, that the landlord itself is not liable for the injury. If the landlord retained a snow removal company (to continue with our example), and the tenant fell due to a failure to shovel and salt and was injured, then the landlord may be able to defend on the basis that the landlord reasonably contracted with the snow removal company. In that instance, the tenant would sue not just the landlord but also the snow removal company.