The number of rental homes, apartments and properties has skyrocketed in the United States over the past 30 years. There are now more than 43 million rental units in the country, with a little under one million in Michigan alone. Approximately 30% of all households in Michigan rent.
The management company and landlords have a legal duty to ensure the properties they rent are safe. This rule goes to all different types of rentals, whether it is a single-family home, apartment complex, townhouse, duplex, or other rental properties.
This duty extends to porches, decks and railings, steps, staircases, and handrails, both inside and outside the rental property. When the landlord fails to maintain or fix loose handrails, broken steps, decaying and rotted porches, or other dangerous conditions on the property, a tenant who is injured on the property can seek compensation.
Our team of Detroit and Michigan tenant injury lawyers has helped renters all over the state get the compensation and justice they deserve.
What is the Responsibility of Landlords to Prevent Tenant Injury in Detroit and Michigan?
Under Michigan law, landlords have a special obligation to their renters and tenants. First, landlords must keep their premises and all common areas fit for their intended use. MCL 554.139(a). This means porches, walkways, steps, and handrails must be in good condition for the ways they are normally used.
Steps are intended to be walked on. Handrails are intended to be held and used for balance. When these structures fail, they were not fit for their intended use. Landlords can be held responsible for the injuries that are caused.
In addition, landlords must keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease. MCL 554.139(b). This means handrails and porches must be in reasonable repair and maintained. Handrails missing screws or bolts, steps that are rotting and soft, porches that are about to give way must be repaired. If a landlord or property manager fails to do this, and a tenant gets injured, they can be held civilly liable.
Detroit and Michigan landlords also cannot permit unsafe conditions to exist unabated. This means once a tenant alerts a landlord to a dangerous, unsanitary, or unhealthy condition, the landlord must fix the problem. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can make a liability claim for the injuries and losses suffered and medical bills by the tenant resulting from the landlord’s lack of action. MCL 125.536.
Landlords Must Follow Building Codes and Ordinances
Most cities have ordinances that mandate how things like decks and balconies, porch, handrails, or steps should be constructed. Many cities and townships have adopted the International Property Maintenance Code, which establishes minimum requirements for the maintenance of buildings.
For example, ordinances provide guidance on such items as the height of handrails and when and where handrails must be installed. Although a violation of a city ordinance is not negligence in itself, it can be evidence of negligence if a renter is injured due to a defective handrail.
What are Typical Requirements for Landlord Maintenance in Detroit and Michigan?
The International Property Maintenance Code “Code” issues general guidelines for all structures of a building, such as an apartment complex and house. Many townships have adopted the Code into their own ordinances.
But what are these basic requirements for things like handrails, steps, porches, and stairways? Below is a list of building rules from the Internal Property Maintenance Code:
307.1 – General
Every exterior and interior flight of stairs having more than four risers shall have a handrail on one side and every open portion of a stair, landing, balcony, porch, deck, ramp or other walking surfaces that is more than 30 inches above the floor or grade below shall have guards. Handrails shall not be less than 30 inches in height or more than 42 inches in height measured vertically above the nosing of the tread or above the finished floor of the landing or walking surface. Guards shall not be less than 30 inches in height above the floor of the landing, balcony, porch, deck, or ramp or other walking surfaces.
304.12 Handrails and Guards
Every handrail and guard shall be firmly fastened and capable of supporting normal loads and shall be maintained in good condition.
304.1.1 – Unsafe Conditions
Exterior stairs, decks, porches, balconies, and other similar appurtenances attached thereto, including guards and handrails, are not structurally sound, not properly anchored or are anchored with connections not capable of supporting all normal loads and resisting all load effects.
304.10 – Stairways, Decks, Porches and Balconies
Every exterior, deck, stairway, porch and balcony, and all appurtenances attached thereto, shall be maintained structurally sound, in good repair, with proper anchorage, and capable of supporting the imposed loads.
The International Property Maintenance Code is looked upon as a basic guide for building safety. Failing to abide by every rule does not mean the landlord is negligent. However, a violation of these rules does provide evidence of negligence. They are powerful tools for Michigan tenant personal injury lawyers to follow and use when proving landlord negligence.
What Are Typical Causes of Injuries on a Rental Property in Detroit and Michigan?
A tenant can get injured on a rental property for any number of reasons. But in my experience, there are a few main contributors to major personal injuries sustained by tenants or renters in Michigan. These include:
- Slip and fall due to ice and snow that was not shoveled, plowed or cleared in a timely fashion.
- Wooden steps that are rotted or decaying and not replaced.
- Missing screws and nails on a porch or handrail that causes it to collapse or give way.
- Concrete steps are missing chunks or pieces.
- Broken gutters or downspouts that causes water to pool and ice to form near doors and entrance ways.
- Walkways and parking lots that are neglected and full of potholes
What Are Examples of Tenant Injuries from a Broken Porch, Deck or Handrail
The types of injuries that are caused by defective or broken porch boards, steps, or handrails vary immensely. Our Michigan landlord-tenant injury law firm has helped victims who have sustained injuries, including but not limited to:
- Broken wrist and elbows
- Broken legs, including tibia and fibula
- Broken hips and pelvis
- Broken or twisted ankle, including sprains
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Facial injuries and dental damage
- Closed head injury or traumatic brain injury
Our law offices have handled injuries on rental properties and landlord negligence cases throughout Michigan for more than 40 years. We are experts in Detroit and Michigan premises liability law and Michigan slip and fall injury cases. Our team of Michigan personal injury attorneys have the compassion and know how to ensure you get justice and compensation for your injuries.
Call our office toll-free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) for a free consultation. And as always, we never charge anything until we win your case.