Counsel, Advocacy & Representation for California Tenants

Injuries Caused by Landlord Negligence

I am often contacted by tenants that have been injured because of problems with the house or apartment they rent that the landlord refuses to fix.  Sometimes the problem is one that the landlord has known about for a long time, and other times the situation comes about suddenly. In either case, when a tenant suffers injury because of something that the landlord should have fixed, then the landlord is responsible for damages that are suffered.

As always, the details of the individual situation matter a great deal.  As a general principle, in order for a landlord to be held responsible for your injury under the law, the cause of the injury must be something that the landlord, or his property manager, had a duty to take care of.  

If a tenant is injured walking on a shared stairway leading to a second story apartment when it collapses, then this would certainly be something that the landlord has a responsibility to take care of.  If the tenant slips on a piece of bacon in her kitchen, then the landlord can’t be held responsible for that because he has no duty to keep your kitchen floor clean.

Many times the situation is not so clear as the example given above.  An important question will always be who had control over the part of the property where the injury resulted, and did the landlord know about the situation.  If the landlord didn’t know about the dangerous situation, then is it something he or she should have known about?

Some things are always going to be the landlord’s responsibility to fix.  These include things like plumbing, electrical wiring and public areas shared by multiple tenants.  Other things might be the landlord’s responsibility, but the tenant has an obligation to tell the landlord about the problem when he or she finds out about it.

Think about the example of a bee hive in the attic.  It is an infestation that the landlord should take action to resolve, but if the occupants living in the house know about the bee hive, and don’t tell the landlord, then it is much harder to assign responsibility to the landlord when someone suffers bee stings when the hive falls into the living room.  For this reason,it is important to make your problems with the property known to the landlord when you discover them.  Don’t assume that the landlord knows about plumbing under the bathroom sink that constantly leaks, or that it is your responsibility to deal with the situation.  It is a much better idea to tell your landlord about the leak right when you notice it.

Many times tenants are injured because of something that neither they nor the landlord knew about.  Like when an interior ceiling collapses.  In these situation, the landlord will be held responsible, if the tenant takes the correct course of action!  

If you are injured as a result of problems with the apartment or house that you rent, follow these general principles.

  • If the accident results in physical injury, seek medical attention appropriate to the situation as soon as needed.


  • Take pictures of what happened right away.  Take good quality photos with a phone or digital camera and back them up right away. The best method to securely save them is to use cloud based storage like Google Drive, or iCloud.


  • Get witnesses to the event.  If there are no witnesses, then make sure to invite someone to watch you taking your photographs.


  • Make sure that you inform your landlord or property manager about the accident that caused the injury, but be careful to stick to the facts.


  • Do not talk to any insurance agents, or give a recorded statement to any third party before speaking with an attorney.


  • Contact a lawyer to discuss what happened and find out what your rights you have.  Beware of attorneys that promise great results in their advertisements, but who won’t talk to you directly.

If the accident results in physical injury, seek medical attention and speak with an attorney as soon as possible.


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Get Representation

If you have a situation that is more than a question, and are already having a dispute with your landlord, then information alone is often not enough to settle the matter to your advantage. What most renters need, but seldom have, is an attorney who knows the law, and the landlord’s duties under the law, and is not afraid to advocate for tenants.

Even the most informed tenants can find the court system overwhelming.  Defending against eviction on your own is more than just challenging.  Fort the unprepared and unrepresented it is an ordeal filled with traps.  Tenants who go to court without an attorney frequently enter into bad agreements and suffer humiliation at the hands of the landlord’s lawyers. Having an experienced attorney on your side will make a difference.

Get Informed

If your situation is not a lawsuit in court, but rather a question, or a curiosity about what the law says, there are many places where you can find educational materials, and  every tenant should become familiar with the legal protections for tenants in California law.

Many times the answer to tenants’ legal questions are more complicated than they may first appear.  It’s important to be careful, and not to rely upon every piece of information posted online, or simply accept the advice of friends and neighbors.  Make sure the source of your legal advice is reliable and up to date.

Look around the website and see if we have information to help you.  If you have a question and you can’t find an answer,  click here to send us a comment.  An attorney that specializes in advocating for tenants will reply, and can direct you to the resources you need. 

Don't go to Trial unprepared

Written notices demanding the payment of rent, notices that threaten the termination of your lease, accusations of illegal activity, and notices of changes in terms and conditions of a lease from a landlord or property manager are often the prelude to legal action.  They must be taken seriously.  It is critical for tenants to respond to notice from a landlord intelligently and prudently.

Before you agree to excessive rent increases, or allow the oppressive actions of the owner or management intimidate you, meet with a professional.

Information, early in time, is the key to success.  Often times becoming informed can help you to avoid being on defense.  If you are not able to avoid litigation, then consult with an attorney who stands with tenants and defends their rights.

Don't Waste Time

When a tenant has a legal conflict with the landlord, there is often only a short period of time to act.  Under California law, landlords are usually required to give notice to tenants before they resort to legal action. However, most of these legally required notices give a tenant only three days to act.  When a tenant fails to act within the three days then the landlord can proceed to court.

Once an action to evict (also called unlawful detainer) is filed against a tenant in court, it can move very quickly.   Landlords enjoy a unique legal procedure, which is known as a summary proceeding.   Once a tenant is sued in court, and then served with an unlawful detainer summons, then he or she has only five days to respond.

If your landlord has sued you or is threatening to sue you, then you must act quickly. Hesitation and uncertainty can lead to a loss of money, loss of security and the loss of your home. Don’t wait.  Schedule an appointment for a consultation  immediately to discuss your case.