CACI 1006 Landlord’s Duty

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

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

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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.)

“With regard to landlords, ‘reasonable care ordinarily involves making sure the property is safe at the beginning of the tenancy, and repairing any hazards the landlord learns about later.’ ‘ “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.” ’ ” (Day v. Lupo Vine Street, L.P. (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 62, 69 [231 Cal.Rptr.3d 193], internal citations omitted.)

“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 omitted.)

“[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.” (Morasupra, 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 (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1284, 1285
1 Levy 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)
California Civil Practice: Torts §§ 16:12–16:16 (Thomson Reuters)