Social Guest of Tenant Can Recover For Injuries Caused by the Negligence of the Landlord in Failing to Make Repairs

A landlord has an obligation to keep the leased property in repair. When the tenant reports defects to the landlord, the landlord has a duty under Ohio statutes to fix the problem. If a tenant or a tenant’s guest is injured because the landlord failed to make the repair, the landlord is responsible for the injuries. This is true even when the danger involved is an open and obvious problem, at least according to the 10th District Court of Appeals in Mann v. Northgate Investors, L.L.C.

In this case, the plaintiff had visited her friend’s second story apartment. She left the apartment when it was dark. The apartment’s common hallway was dark because the light fixture was not working. When the tenant shut her door, the stairwell was dark. This was the only way for the plaintiff to leave the building. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she thought there was another step when there was not. She fell forward and through a glass plate door. The tenants had complained several times about the problem with the lighting in the hallway and the landlord had not fixed it.

The landlord argued that the plaintiff was negligent for proceeding in the dark and that the danger of proceeding in total darkness is an open and obvious situation. Ohio law holds that dangers that are visible are “open and obvious” and the property owner owes no duty to warn about something that the other person should discover on his or her own.

The court agreed with the plaintiff. Even though the glass plate and the darkness were open and obvious conditions, Ohio landlord and tenant law controlled. Because the landlord must provide premises that are safe and sanitary, the landlord’s failure to do this was negligence and opened the landlord to liability for these injuries.