Under the laws of New Jersey, the owners or persons in control of residential or commercial property have a duty to maintain the premises in such a way as to minimize the risk of injury to anyone legally on the property. This is known as “premises liability” law.
The Responsibilities of Property Owners/Managers/Occupants in New Jersey
In New Jersey, as in other states, anyone who has responsibility for maintaining real property can be found liable when someone suffers an injury because of improper maintenance or lack of maintenance of the property. That will typically include the owner of the property, but it can also include property managers or tenants.
The first duty of such a person is to reasonably monitor the premises so as to be made aware of any potential safety risk. Note that there is no absolute duty to prevent injury, only to take reasonable steps to minimize the risk of injury. However, where a reasonable person would expect certain conditions to occur—snowfall or the collection of ice in a northern climate, for instance—a property manager/owner/tenant may have liability even if there was no actual knowledge of the condition, if a reasonable person would have anticipated the condition.
Once a property owner is aware (or circumstances dictate that the property owner should have been aware) of a dangerous condition, the property owner must either take reasonable measures to fix the problem, must cordon off the area to prevent access, or must provide reasonable warning of the potential dangers.
The Status of the Visitor
A defendant’s duty to a person injured on real property varies, based on the legal status of the visitor:
- Invitees—If the person is on the property legally, and has been expressly or impliedly invited there by the owner, for purposes the benefit the owner, that person is an invitee. A landowner owes the highest duty to an invitee—to take reasonable care to prevent injury
- Licensees—If a visitor is on property with permission, but for his or her own benefit, that person is referred to as a licensee. A property owner’s duty to a licensee is only to warn of conditions of which the owner is aware and which the visitor would not be likely to discover
- Trespassers—If the person is on the property without legal permission or right, the landowner typically owes no duty, unless the visitor is a minor. Landowners have a duty with respect to what are known as "attractive nuisances," generally man-made objects or devices that would be attractive to a minor, such as a swimming pool or gravel pile.
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