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What is building liability? Everything you need to know – Forbes Advisor

In many states, your legal status on the property affects what obligations the owner or occupant has to you. There are a few different categories of visitor, so you need to know which ones you fit into to determine if an owner/resident has acted negligently.


Invitees are people entering the property to do business with the owner. The owner/resident receives an economic advantage. A good example could be a customer of a restaurant or a shop.

Property owners owe the invited persons the highest duty of care. They must remedy or warn of any hazards of which they know or reasonably should have known based on a reasonable investigation of the property.


Licensees are invited guests, but they enter a property for their own purposes and not because they have been invited to enrich the property owner. If you go to a friend’s house to spend an afternoon together, you will most likely be seen as a licensee.

Property owners owe licensees an interim duty of care. They must correct conditions they know could pose a hazard and warn of hazards of which they are or should be aware. But they don’t have the same hazard screening duties that they would have if guests regularly entered their premises.


Intruders are people who enter property without permission. Surprisingly, property owners still owe some obligations to intruders. For example, they cannot actively set traps for them or intentionally create dangerous conditions. Property owners also sometimes need to warn of certain dangerous conditions, especially if they have known intruders on their land.


Children are in a special category because they are not expected to have the same cognitive abilities as adults. They may not be aware that they are trespassing, or may be drawn to a property by things like a trampoline or a swimming pool or other hazards that qualify as “attractive nuisance” because of the risk they prevent.

If owners are aware that children are or may be unauthorized, or are aware that they are an attractive nuisance that could result in injury or death, they have a duty to reduce the risk (e.g. by constructing a fence). If they do not do this, they can in principle be held liable for the consequences.


Generally, if an employee is injured on the job, they are not entitled to bring a public liability case and must instead make an employee compensation claim, although there are situations where an employee works on a construction site that is not owned by the employer heard, or The employee is injured in an area of ​​the building owned by someone else where building liability may be applicable.

Comparative liability claims for building defects

In some cases, you may be partially responsible for your injuries, and the property owner or occupant may also be partially at fault. In that case, state law will determine your rights.

Most states have comparative negligence rules. That means you can claim partial damages as long as you were less than 50% at fault or less than 51% at fault (depending on the state). You can only recover a portion of your damage, with the amount you recover being the percentage at fault of the owner/resident. If the owner was 60% responsible and you suffered $100,000 in damage, you could recover $60,000.

A small number of states apply other rules, known as carpooling rules. In these states, you cannot make a claim if you are complicit in your own injuries.

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