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Landlord not responsible for building code violation

Britney Henley suffered permanent serious injury to her arm when she struggled to close the basement door of her mother's forty-year old rented home and accidently put her arm through the glass.   The door did not close properly and the glass in it was not safety glass--a violation of several statutes including MCL 554.139, 125.536, 125.1383 and 125.471. 

The Court reversed a decision by the trial court, which had refused to grant summary disposition to the defendant.  The Court held that the landlord was under a duty to repair only those unsafe conditions which it was aware of, or which it reasonably should have been aware of.  The injured child's family maintained, reasonably, we think, that it was at least a question of fact with regard to whether the landlord should have been aware of an exterior door in such disrepair that it would not close properly.  The Court rejected this claim and held that as a matter of law, there was no evidence to suggest that the landlord should have known of the unsafe and illegal condition of the door and window. 

We find it appalling that the legislature can pass statutes obligating a landlord to maintain reasonably safe conditions in rental properties, and yet a landlord can escape responsibility, as a matter of law, simply by "mailing in" its responsibility to care for the property.  This is poor public policy and judicial activism at its worst.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262