California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) (2017)

1006. Landlord's Duty

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1006.Landlord’s Duty
A landlord must conduct reasonable periodic inspections of rental
property whenever the landlord has the legal right of possession. Before
giving possession of leased property to a tenant [or on renewal of a
lease] [or after retaking possession from a tenant], a landlord must
conduct a reasonable inspection of the property for unsafe conditions
and must take reasonable precautions to prevent injury due to the
conditions that were or reasonably should have been discovered in the
process. The inspection must include common areas under the
landlord’s control.
After a tenant has taken possession, a landlord must take reasonable
precautions to prevent injury due to any unsafe condition in an area of
the premises under the landlord’s control if the landlord knows or
reasonably should have known about it.
[After a tenant has taken possession, a landlord must take reasonable
precautions to prevent injury due to any unsafe condition in an area of
the premises under the tenant’s control if the landlord has actual
knowledge of the condition and the right and ability to correct it.]
New September 2003; Revised April 2008, April 2009, December 2009, June 2010
Directions for Use
Give this instruction with CACI No. 1000, Premises Liability—Essential Factual
Elements, CACI No. 1001, Basic Duty of Care, and CACI No. 1003, Unsafe
Conditions, if the injury occurred on rental property and the landlord is alleged to
be liable. Include the last paragraph if the property is not within the landlord’s
immediate control.
Include “or on renewal of a lease” for commercial tenancies. (See Mora v. Baker
Commodities, Inc. (1989) 210 Cal.App.3d 771, 781 [258 Cal.Rptr. 669].) While no
case appears to have specifically addressed a landlord’s duty to inspect on renewal
of a residential lease, it would seem impossible to impose such a duty with regard
to a month-to-month tenancy. Whether there might be a duty to inspect on renewal
of a long-term residential lease appears to be unresolved.
Under the doctrine of nondelegable duty, a landlord cannot escape liability for
failure to maintain property in a safe condition by delegating the duty to an
independent contractor. (Srithong v. Total Investment Co. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th
721, 726 [28 Cal.Rptr.2d 672].) For an instruction for use with regard to a
landlord’s liability for the acts of an independent contractor, see CACI No. 3713,
Nondelegable Duty.
Sources and Authority
• “A landlord owes a duty of care to a tenant to provide and maintain safe
conditions on the leased premises. This duty of care also extends to the general
public. ‘A lessor who leases property for a purpose involving the admission of
the public is under a duty to see that it is safe for the purposes intended, and to
exercise reasonable care to inspect and repair the premises before possession is
transferred so as to prevent any unreasonable risk of harm to the public who
may enter. An agreement to renew a lease or relet the premises . . . cannot
relieve the lessor of his duty to see that the premises are reasonably safe at that
time.’ [¶] Where there is a duty to exercise reasonable care in the inspection of
premises for dangerous conditions, the lack of awareness of the dangerous
condition does not generally preclude liability. ‘Although liability might easily
be found where the landowner has actual knowledge of the dangerous condition
“[t]he landowner’s lack of knowledge of the dangerous condition is not a
defense. He has an affirmative duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the
premises in a reasonably safe condition, and therefore must inspect them or take
other proper means to ascertain their condition. And if, by the exercise of
reasonable care, he would have discovered the dangerous condition, he is
liable.” ’ ” (Portillo v. Aiassa (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1134 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d
755], internal citations omitted.)
• “Public policy precludes landlord liability for a dangerous condition on the
premises which came into existence after possession has passed to a tenant.
This is based on the principle that the landlord has surrendered possession and
control of the land to the tenant and has no right even to enter without
permission. It would not be reasonable to hold a lessor liable if the lessor did
not have the power, opportunity, and ability to eliminate the dangerous
condition.” (Garcia v. Holt (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 600, 604 [195 Cal.Rptr.3d
47], internal citations omitted.)
• “The rationale for this rule has been that property law regards a lease as
equivalent to a sale of the land for the term of the lease. As stated by Prosser:
‘In the absence of agreement to the contrary, the lessor surrenders both
possession and control of the land to the lessee, retaining only a reversionary
interest; and he has no right even to enter without the permission of the lessee.
Consequently, it is the general rule that he is under no obligation to anyone to
look after the premises or keep them in repair, and is not responsible, either to
persons injured on the land or to those outside of it, for conditions which
develop or are created by the tenant after possession has been transferred.
Neither is he responsible, in general, for the activities which the tenant carries
on upon the land after such transfer, even when they create a nuisance.’ ”
(Uccello v. Laudenslayer (1975) 44 Cal.App.3d 504, 510–511 [118 Cal.Rptr.
741], internal citations omitted.)
• “To this general rule of nonliability, the law has developed a number of
exceptions, such as where the landlord covenants or volunteers to repair a
defective condition on the premises, where the landlord has actual knowledge of
defects which are unknown and not apparent to the tenant and he fails to
disclose them to the tenant, where there is a nuisance existing on the property
at the time the lease is made or renewed, when a safety law has been violated,
or where the injury occurs on a part of the premises over which the landlord
retains control, such as common hallways, stairs, elevators, or roof. [¶] A
common element in these exceptions is that either at or after the time
possession is given to the tenant the landlord retains or acquires a recognizable
degree of control over the dangerous condition with a concomitant right and
power to obviate the condition and prevent the injury. In these situations, the
law imposes on the landlord a duty to use ordinary care to eliminate the
condition with resulting liability for injuries caused by his failure so to act.”
(Uccello, supra, 44 Cal.App.3d at p. 511, internal citations omitted.)
• “[W]here a landlord has relinquished control of property to a tenant, a ‘bright
line’ rule has developed to moderate the landlord’s duty of care owed to a third
party injured on the property as compared with the tenant who enjoys
possession and control. ‘ “Because a landlord has relinquished possessory
interest in the land, his or her duty of care to third parties injured on the land is
attenuated as compared with the tenant who enjoys possession and control.
Thus, before liability may be thrust on a landlord for a third party’s injury due
to a dangerous condition on the land, the plaintiff must show that the landlord
had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition in question, plus the right and
ability to cure the condition.” [¶] Limiting a landlord’s obligations releases it
from needing to engage in potentially intrusive oversight of the property, thus
permitting the tenant to enjoy its tenancy unmolested.’ ” (Salinas v. Martin
(2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 404, 412 [82 Cal.Rptr.3d 735], internal citations
• “[A] commercial landowner cannot totally abrogate its landowner
responsibilities merely by signing a lease. As the owner of property, a lessor out
of possession must exercise due care and must act reasonably toward the tenant
as well as to unknown third persons. At the time the lease is executed and upon
renewal a landlord has a right to reenter the property, has control of the
property, and must inspect the premises to make the premises reasonably safe
from dangerous conditions. Even if the commercial landlord executes a contract
which requires the tenant to maintain the property in a certain condition, the
landlord is obligated at the time the lease is executed to take reasonable
precautions to avoid unnecessary danger.” (Mora,supra, 210 Cal.App.3d at p.
781, internal citations omitted.)
• “[T]he landlord’s responsibility to inspect is limited. Like a residential landlord,
the duty to inspect charges the lessor ‘only with those matters which would
have been disclosed by a reasonable inspection.’ The burden of reducing or
avoiding the risk and the likelihood of injury will affect the determination of
what constitutes a reasonable inspection. The landlord’s obligation is only to do
what is reasonable under the circumstances. The landlord need not take
extraordinary measures or make unreasonable expenditures of time and money
in trying to discover hazards unless the circumstances so warrant. When there is
a potential serious danger, which is foreseeable, a landlord should anticipate the
danger and conduct a reasonable inspection before passing possession to the
tenant. However, if no such inspection is warranted, the landlord has no such
obligation.” (Mora, supra, 210 Cal.App.3d at p. 782, internal citations and
footnote omitted.)
• “It is one thing for a landlord to leave a tenant alone who is complying with its
lease. It is entirely different, however, for a landlord to ignore a defaulting
tenant’s possible neglect of property. Neglected property endangers the public,
and a landlord’s detachment frustrates the public policy of keeping property in
good repair and safe. To strike the right balance between safety and disfavored
self-help, we hold that [the landlord]’s duty to inspect attached upon entry of
the judgment of possession in the unlawful detainer action and included
reasonable periodic inspections thereafter.” (Stone v. Center Trust Retail
Properties, Inc. (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 608, 613 [77 Cal.Rptr.3d 556].)
• “[I]t is established that a landlord owes a duty of care to its tenants to take
reasonable steps to secure the common areas under its control.” (Ann M. v.
Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666, 675 [25 Cal.Rptr.2d 137,
863 P.2d 207].)
• “The existence of the landlord’s duty to others to maintain the property in a
reasonably safe condition is a question of law for the court.” (Johnson v.
Prasad (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 74, 79 [168 Cal.Rptr.3d 196].)
• “The reasonableness of a landlord’s conduct under all the circumstances is for
the jury. A triable issue of fact exists as to whether the defendants’ maintenance
of a low, open, unguarded window in a common hallway where they knew
young children were likely to play constituted a breach of their duty to take
reasonable precautions to prevent children falling out of the window.” (Amos v.
Alpha Prop. Mgmt. (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 895, 904 [87 Cal.Rptr.2d 34],
internal citation omitted.)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1142, 1143
1Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 15, General Premises Liability, § 15.02
(Matthew Bender)
6 California Real Estate Law and Practice, Ch. 170, The Premises: Duties and
Liabilities, § 170.03 (Matthew Bender)
29 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 334, Landlord and Tenant:
Claims for Damages, §§ 334.10, 334.53 (Matthew Bender)
36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 421, Premises Liability, § 421.11
et seq. (Matthew Bender)
17 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 178, Premises Liability, § 178.23
(Matthew Bender)
1 California Civil Practice: Torts §§ 16:12–16:16 (Thomson Reuters)