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Q: I received a letter from a lawyer stating that my tenant is suing me for an “incident” resulting in substantial injuries. The manager of the complex said he thinks the tenant tripped on the side steps in the common area. Nothing that I know of happened in the condo.  Am I responsible, even if his injury happened in the common area?

R.W.S., Marina Del Rey

Ron Sokol
Ron Sokol

A: As a landlord, you are to conduct periodic inspections of your rental property when you have the legal right of possession. Also, before turning over possession to a tenant, or upon renewal of a lease, or after retaking possession of the premises, the landlord is to inspect the property, and take reasonable precautions to prevent injury from unsafe conditions that were or reasonably should have been discovered. This inspection is to include common areas under the landlord’s control.

A key question therefore arises: Is the location of the alleged incident under your control, in whole or in part? Typically, if your condo is part of a homeowner’s association, what happens in or on the common area is the responsibility of the association, not you, not a separate owner. This is found at Civil Code Section 4775(a), and is likely covered in the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions of the association.

Bottom line, more facts are needed to be able to opine as to whether you may have some liability. Have you asked the lawyer who wrote to you on what basis any claim is made against you? Also, you should at least give consideration to submitting the claim (or the notice of claim from the lawyer) to your homeowner’s insurance carrier.

Q: We have found mold at the home we are renting. What do you suggest we do?

C.L, Los Angeles

A: Mold can be harmful. Notify the landlord at once. If the landlord does not take steps to evaluate the mold and deal with it (which may require some level of remediation), then you may have to do so. You could also consider withholding rent on the basis the rental is now uninhabitable (if such is the case), or you could repair and deduct. Because of concerns that mold can be dangerous to your health, and the sensitive nature of the landlord-tenant relationship, consultation with qualified counsel is well advised. I do not know if you should move out, as I do not know the nature or extent of the mold. Taking careful, informed steps is in order.

Landlord-tenant guide

An informative, detailed brochure on the landlord-tenant relationship, which delves into many important issues, is available through the California Department of Real Estate. You can find it online at .

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 40 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

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