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Legal Issues Premises Liability: The Duty of Care

A cracked sidewalk, a leaking pipe, or broken light bulbs are all conditions frequently encountered in the condominium common areas.

They are also conditions which, if not quickly and appropriately fixed, can easily result in injuries or property damage which will likely ensnare a condominium in lengthy and potentially expensive litigation.

Understanding an association’s duty under the law and how it must respond to defective or hazardous conditions in the common area is the best way to reduce an association’s liability for damages resultingfrom common area defects and hazards.

In order to establish negligence against an association, a damaged party must prove four elements: (1) the association owed them a legal duty of care; (2) the association breached its duty of care; (3) the breach of duty caused harm; and (4) actual loss by the damaged party. The breach of the duty of care is the one element that an association can most directly impact.

Duty of Reasonable Care

Condominium associations are held to the same legal duty of care as landowners, that of reasonable care under the circumstances. The association is not required to be the guarantor of safety or protector of property. The duty of reasonable care is not meant to impose unreasonable maintenanceburdens. The association’s responsibility under the law is to take reasonable steps to maintain the premises and prevent damage or injury.

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