Slip and Falls and a Forbidden Clause
Slip and falls, aka premises liability, are common ways that everyday folks get injured. People slip and fall on all kinds of premises: grocery stores, gyms, other people’s residences, and common areas. When you slip and subsequently fall, you have a right to compensation.
Sometimes we slip and fall somewhere close to home, though, like an apartment buildings stairs, elevator, lobby, or hallway. If you rent an apartment and have a slip and fall in a common area of your apartment building or complex, you still have a right to recover.
After your fall, you may get in contact with your landlord or management company to open a claim, and that’s when they may invoke a clause in your lease that they claim means you can’t recover for your injuries from them. To the average person, this may sound scary and you may think that you have no recourse. But in Maryland, that’s simply not true, because that clause is forbidden.
Maryland Real Property § 8-105
If the effect of any provision of a lease is to indemnify the landlord, hold the landlord harmless, or preclude or exonerate the landlord from any liability to the tenant, or to any other person, for any injury, loss, damage, or liability arising from any omission, fault, negligence, or other misconduct of the landlord on or about the leased premises or any elevators, stairways, hallways, or other appurtenances used in connection with them, and not within the exclusive control of the tenant, the provision is considered to be against public policy and void. An insurer may not claim a right of subrogation by reason of the invalidity of the provision.
Translated to plain language, this statute indicates that any clause in a lease that seeks to waive liability on the part of a landlord for negligence in taking care of common areas is illegal and void. Further:
Maryland Real Property § 8-208
(g)(2) If the landlord includes in any lease a provision prohibited by this section or made unenforceable by § 8-105 or § 8-203 of this title, at any time subsequent to July 1, 1975, and tenders a lease containing such a provision or attempts to enforce or makes known to the tenant an intent to enforce any such provision, the tenant may recover any actual damages incurred as a reason thereof, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
This statute means that you can recover whatever damages your suffer plus attorney’s fees if the landlord offers a lease with the forbidden clause or tries to enforce that illegal clause.
What does this mean for you? First, look at your lease. If you see a clause that waives the landlord’s liability for common areas, then there may be other illegal clauses in your lease. Second, don’t fall for this trick. Landlords may try to bully you or point to this lease to get you to drop your claim. Don’t fall for it. Come in to the Law Office of Miguel Palmeiro and we’ll help you recover the compensation you’re owed.
Patrick Mauro is a civil litigation attorney at The Law Office of Miguel Palmeiro.