Duties of Property Owners and Their Agents in New Jersey
Protecting Against Slip and Fall Type Injuries
In New Jersey, as in other states, the owner or person in control of residential or commercial property has a duty to monitor and maintain the premises in ways that minimize the risk of injury to persons with a legal right to be on the property. The duty is not an absolute one—the property owner may not be liable for any injury that occurs on the premises, but only for those that could have been avoided by the exercise of reasonable care. The duty applies not only to individuals or entities with ownership interest in property, but to tenants, property management companies and managers, and any others who exercise control over the property.
The duty owed by the owner/person in control varies, based on the status of the person visiting the property. It has long been the rule of law that a property owner owes no duty to a trespasser, unless the trespasser is a minor who has come on the property because of an “attractive nuisance,” such as a swimming pool.
A property owner/controller owes the highest duty to a person considered to be a “business invitee.” A business invitee is someone who comes on the owner’s property for the benefit of the owner—typically a business customer. The owner must take reasonable steps to monitor the property and ensure that the premises are safe. The owner may repair any defects or dangerous conditions that he knows or should know about or can provide reasonable warning of any known dangers. He may also close off sections of property that pose a risk.
A licensee is someone enters the property of another legally, but typically for his or her own benefit. The person may be a social guest, for example. The property owner’s duty to a licensee is not as comprehensive as it is for an invitee—the owner must only warn of any known dangerous conditions.
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