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Premises Liability As A Commercial Building Owner

The basic idea of premises liability is that if you are responsible for an area like a building, a park, a construction site, or a home, then you have a duty to keep that area safe for guests, employees, residents, and anyone else who has a lawful reason to be on the property. If the premises are unsafe for some reason and someone is hurt because of that, then you may be responsible for compensating their injuries even if you didn’t do anything to cause direct harm.

The issue of responsibility gets complicated when the person or business that owns the land and the building are different from the person or building who uses it. This is especially true when it comes to commercial property since businesses are at every level of ownership. If you own commercial property you probably won’t be held responsible for every safety decision (or lack of decisions) the renting business makes, but just like a residential property owner you have certain responsibilities to your tenants that you can’t afford to neglect.

Building Upkeep


As the building’s owner, it’s your responsibility to keep the building itself in good shape. That means maintaining and repairing the roof so it won’t leak, keeping the central HVAC system in good repair, and making sure that the walls, windows, and doors are working properly. Public areas like the parking lot, hallways, staircases, and elevators will also be your responsibility unless they fall entirely within a rented space, and even then the basic maintenance will probably be your responsibility.

Security


Security systems have become a lot more mobile than they used to be, but for the most part it’s usually something the tenants expect the land owner to be responsible for. In fact, security systems are often a selling point that building owners can use to convince businesses to rent one of their locations instead of somewhere else. As such, it’s your responsibility to make sure the system works properly and all the parts are functioning. On the other hand, it’s up to your tenants to use the security system correctly.

Layout


Certain parts of commercial buildings don’t change, such as the location of bathrooms and the size of rooms. As such, the building’s tenant will make most of the layout decisions when they bring in tables, chairs, office desks, countertops, and everything else they need to conduct their business. For the most part, anything the tenants bring in will be their responsibility to maintain, and their layout should also accommodate the maintenance workers you send in to check the parts of the building you’re responsible for.

Renovation


Building renovation may be the trickiest aspect of premises liability when it comes to an occupied commercial space. If you have a property with no current tenant, then renovation is simply a matter of hiring a contractor you trust to make some changes. However, if someone is using your property and wants to renovate, you’ll have to negotiate who’s responsible for which costs, how to get the renovation done without a lot of down time, and how to keep customers and employees safe during the process. An injury at this time could be on you, the renter, and the contractor.

With so many overlapping responsibilities, it’s important to be very clear about which party is responsible for what when writing the lease contract. Being vague about something you don’t want your company to handle could end up biting you if someone is injured and it’s not clear whose neglect caused it. It’s almost always better for a personal injury lawsuit to end as quickly as possible, so taking responsibility for parts of your commercial property could end up saving you money in the long run.