by: Patrick A. Randolph, Jr.
Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law
LANDLORD/TENANT; LANDLORD'S LIABILITY FOR INJURY TO TENANT; STATUS OF TENANT: Tenant of an apartment complex walking across common areas of complex to enter and exit tenant's leased premises, will be deemed an "invitee" rather than a "licensee" for purposes of landlord liability. Lakeview Associates Limited v. Maes, 907 P.2d 580 (Colo. 1995).
Under Colorado statute, landowners have the duty to protect invitees against known risks, while as to licensees they must simply refrain from willful or wanton conduct leading to injury. The case includes a fascinating story of the recent history of this statute, which contains a legislative statement of policy that it is intended to protect landowners from liability beyond the protection afforded by common law. But the change from common law really seems to be in the articulation of duty, not in the description of the status definitions.
The statute defines "invitee" as someone who enters owner's land . . . "to conduct business in which the parties are mutually interested." A "licensee" is one who enters owner's land "for the licensee's own convenience or to advance his own interests, pursuant to the landowner's permission or consent" and includes a social guest.
Tenant in this case was walking across a parking lot on the apartment complex property in order to catch a bus. Tenant did not own a car. She slipped on ice and was injured.
The Colorado Supreme Court held that as Tenant's lease required her to continue to make periodic payments of rent and provide certain services (such as removing garbage from the unit, etc.) and landlord agreed to provide continuing services for the benefit of Tenant, the lease benefited both parties. Therefore, the landlord was effectively conducting ongoing business with Tenant, the business of renting the leased premises and Tenant in her travels across the common areas was deemed to be an invitee, namely, under common law one who enters or occupies the property for the purpose of transacting business with the landowner. Comment: No matter how the legislature redefines things, it is difficult to imagine a modern court failing to hold a landlord to a duty of care in clearing ice from the parking lot.
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