Suing a Property Management Company for Negligence?

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suing a property management company for negligence

When a person is injured because of unsafe conditions unaddressed due to property management company negligence, there may be grounds to sue. This is something that arises frequently in densely-populated cities like Atlanta, where many people rent apartments or own condominiums with common spaces that property management companies may be responsible to maintain.

Some examples of these common spaces include:

  • Stairwells
  • Elevators
  • Lobbies
  • Hallways
  • Parking lots
  • Entrance walkways

When these areas are improperly-maintained or security is inadequate, property owners as well as property management companies may be found liable. As our Atlanta injury attorneys can explain, this is especially true of properties owned by out-of-state individuals or corporations. In these situations, property management companies may be contractually obliged to conduct safety inspections, perform repairs, monitor security and ensure dangerous conditions are identified and repaired.

What Duty Does Property Management Company Owe Tenants/ Guests?

The responsibility of a property manager to tenants or guests is the same or similar to that of property owners, pursuant to Georgia’s premises liability law, O.C.G.A. 51-3-1.The statute says “where an owner OR OCCUPIER of land” invites, induces or leads someone else onto the site for a lawful purpose, he or she is liable to those invitees for failure to exercise ordinary care for keeping the property and its entrances safe.

What this means is the property owner or occupier has a responsibility to repair problems that make the property unsafe or that could result in injury or to warn tenants or guests about the danger so they can avoid it. However, property managers (similar to property owners) are typically only responsible for conditions that are known or should be known and for causes of injury that are reasonably foreseeable.

Property owners and/ or occupiers usually aren’t liable for injuries that occur when:

  • The guest or tenant is aware of the unsafe condition and fails to take reasonable precaution to protect themselves;
  • The perilous conditions is obvious and open and one could reasonably be expected to have noticed and avoided it;
  • The property management company had no prior knowledge of the unsafe condition could not have reasonably been expected to know about it.
  • The person injured misused the property in some way that resulted in causing the dangerous condition.

There is no bright-line rule for these criteria, so courts will often turn to precedential Georgia court rulings of the past to determine how narrowly or broadly those terms are defined.  

Relationship of Property Manager to Property Owner Matters

The question of which entities may be held responsible for premises liability and to what extent might depend on the relationship the property manager has with the owner. For example, if the property manager is an employee of the property owner, then the legal principle of vicarious liability will mean the property owner (principle) can be held responsible for the negligent actions of its employee/ agents (property manager), regardless of whether the principle was personally negligent.

However, if the property manager is an independent contractor or a property management company, our injury lawyers will want to look closely at the contract between the two. That will tell us specifically which duties were assumed by the property management company and where there was an indemnification agreement between the two pertaining to possible future litigation.

Similar rules may be applicable in cases where condominium associations are involved. Where an association is established, it may bear responsibility for maintenance and security. If the condominium association contracts with a property management company and negligence by that firm results in injury to someone, the ability to hold the property management company liable for damages will depend on the contract terms between the association and the property manager.

The best injury attorney for a case like this will be one who has extensive experience (and a winning track record) in Atlanta premise liability lawsuits. If you have questions, we can help.

The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta premises liability attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at steve@aa-legal.com.