Homeowner Liability Trespassers

As a homeowner, you have the duty to protect the people who live with you from harm. You may do this by installing a security system, regularly maintaining the heating and cooling system in your home, replacing faulty fixtures like floorboards or stairwells, and carrying out other protective or restorative tasks.

However, you also have the obligation of safeguarding people who enter your home and property. You can take the best actions to lower your homeowner liability by learning more about the facts of homeowner liability invitees licensees and trespassers.

Licensees

It is only reasonable to expect any homeowner to entertain guests in his or her home. The law identifies people whom you invite into your home for social occasions as licensees.

Licensees include party guests as well as your relatives that you invite over for Christmas, birthday, and other special events. They have no contractual relationship with you but rather are inside your home at your leisure and pleasure.

Because they have no contractual obligation to you, licensees can expect you to provide a reasonable amount of protection against willful or wanton injuries and harm. That is to say, you have the obligation of protecting your social guests from their own behavior if you know them to be prone to rambunctious or impetuous actions.

For example, if you know that your nephew likes to swing from chandeliers, you must by law make your chandelier off limits to him or take other actions to prevent him from swinging from it.

If your nephew goes for a swing on your chandelier and lands on his head on the living room floor, you could be legally liable for his medical expenses. It will be up to you to prove that you did all you could to prevent him from hanging off the chandelier in the first place.

Likewise, if your uncle Harry is prone to setting fires after getting drunk, you must take measures to keep your uncle sober and away from flammable materials during your party. You can do so by not keeping alcohol in your house and by hiding the matches, lighters, candlesticks, and other risky objects.

If a licensee does get hurt in your home during a social occasion, you could be held liable for the person’s injuries. However, if you can show the court that you took preventative measures to minimize the person’s risk, you could be exonerated.

Invitees

Invitees differ from licensees in that invitees typically do have a contractual relationship with you. In fact, the law says that invitees are people whom you invite into your home either by spoken word, customs, or by inferred actions.

As such, invitees are individuals who come into your home or onto your property to carry out some business-related task. This category of visitor includes contractors that you hire to fix your dishwasher or mow your lawn as well as the FedEx or UPS deliveryman and the mailman. It even covers utility workers who must come onto your property or into your home to install cables or utility lines.

The law also says that as a homeowner you have the responsibility of providing extraordinary care to ensure these individuals’ safety. You must take every precaution to safeguard the area of the property to which they will have access.

For example, if you hire a contractor to fix your dishwasher, you must take every care to ensure the safety of your kitchen. You must mop up any water on the floor, remove sharp objects like knives from the dishwasher, and keep your guard dog out of the room so the contractor can work. If you fail to take these measures and the contractor gets hurt while in your home, you could be found liable for his or her injuries.

Likewise, if you are expecting a package to be delivered on a snowy day, you must by law shovel and sand your sidewalk so that the deliveryman will not slip and fall. If the person falls on a patch of ice that you failed to sand, he or she could sue you in court. You must go above and beyond when it comes to keeping invitees safe from harm as they carry out business-related tasks in your home and on your property.

Trespassers

The homeowner liability invitees licensees and trespassers law says that you also must take reasonable actions to prevent injuries or death to people who illegally enter your home or property. In fact, the law defines trespassers as people who enter your home or come onto your property without your permission and for their express benefit or entertainment.

Despite the fact that you did not give them permission to be there, you still must ensure that they do not get hurt or killed while they are on your property or inside your house. No matter what is depicted in Hollywood movies, you cannot set booby traps or pitfalls for them, for example.

You also must take preventative measures to protect them once you are aware that they are there. Of course, the law regarding trespassers varies in each state.

Some states have Stand Your Ground laws that allow you to defend yourself against people who break into your home and threaten the personal safety of you and your family. You can stay on the right side of the law by verifying what your state says about trespassers and your responsibility of keeping them safe.

Liability Advice

It can be difficult to know what is expected of you as a homeowner when it comes to keeping other people besides your family safe. How can you know what could pose a risk to visitors or trespassers? And why do you have to protect trespassers ,utility workers, or contractors in the first place? Are not contractors, utility workers, and deliverymen covered by their employers’ insurance?

The answers to these questions are complex and difficult to understand sometimes, which is why you should seek out the professional advice of people who know your state’s laws regarding home and property visitors.

You could start by speaking with your homeowners insurance agent about your liability concerns. Your agent can give you advice about how to make your home and property safe for everyone who lawfully or unlawfully enters your home or yard.

You could also speak with an attorney who practices homeowner or property law in your state. The lawyer can answer questions about why you are legally responsible for protecting invitees, licensees, and even trespassers. Your attorney can also give you pointers on how you can make your home and property safer so that the likelihood of accidents, injuries, or wrongful death is minimized.

Buying your own home brings a wealth of benefits and rights that you cannot enjoy as a renter. Even so, home ownership can also bring significant responsibilities that were not anything you had to worry about when you rented a house or an apartment.

Failing to carry out these responsibilities could increase your liability as a homeowner and put you at great financial and legal risk. Your obligation of ensuring your home’s safety does not end with the loved ones who live with you.

By law, you must protect people whom you invite into your home either for social or business purposes. You also must take reasonable care to prevent injuries to people who trespass onto your property.

You can lower your liability as a homeowner and know exactly what is expected of you by consulting with your insurance agent. You also should speak with an attorney to clarify further questions and concerns.