Only two days before the world's celebration of St. Valentine's Day and the Ohio Supreme Court showed no love to landlords. In a unanimous ruling, the highest court in the state ruled that landlord's owe both tenants and their guests safe and sanitary conditions.
The Case that Made the Case
The story goes that a teenage girl was visiting family friends at their apartment building. The lights in the common area of the building were not working and had not been repaired after repeated requests. This young girl tripped and fell headfirst through a large glass window.
The accident left her with life-threatening injuries of which she recovered but for some permanent scarring. Her parents' tried to level a lawsuit against the landlord claiming that he was at least partially at fault for not having provided safe conditions on his property. The landlord argued that the law states his duty of safe conditions is due only his tenants. Appeals and such got this case all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court and all 7 of the Justices said in effect that the intention of the law was not to separate people on the property according to titles, but that the intention was for landlords to provide safe and sanitary conditions period. This ruling has resulted in the wording of the law to be changed by the state legislation to include "and guests."
How Much Will This Ruling Impact Ohio Landlords?
This ruling will have no affect on the way that the majority of landlords do business in the state because they already supply both their tenants and guests with safe and sanitary conditions. When someone sues for damages they are burdened with proving an intentional negligence on the part of whomever they are suing. This hasn't changed anything dealing with landlord-tenant relationships except that landlords now have a clarification of the laws that they are required to obey anyways.
Landlord's Should Seek Advice Early
Anyone thinking about getting into the investment property business should seek the counsel of an experienced real estate agent who can help guide them through a proper assessment of a piece of property and help them put-in-place mechanisms which prevent problems caused by negligence and ignorance. The answer to the question raised is: It only takes 1 professional Realtor to remind a landlord to change a lightbulb.