Under the common law of every state, the owner or possessor of real property, whether residential or commercial, has a duty to maintain the land, sidewalks, driveways, and structures in ways that minimize the risk of injury to certain visitors on the property. This concept is known under the law as premises liability.
The duty extends to any feature or part of the property over which the owner or possessor has or should have control, including floors, stairs, stairways, ramps, elevators, escalators, sidewalks, driveways, playgrounds, fences, garages, sheds, or other structures.
The duty imposed on the owner or possessor varies based on how the law categorizes the visitor:
Invitee: An invitee is any person who enters a property at the express or implied invitation of the property’s owner.
With respect to invitees, the owner or possessor of land owes the highest duty of care when maintaining the property. The property must be reasonably inspected to identify all potential risks. In addition, any hazardous conditions must either be fixed, or warnings must be posted, advising invitees of potential dangers
Licensee: A licensee comes on the property with the permission of the owner or possessor, but for strictly non-commercial reasons. When you ask a friend into your home, they come in as a licensee. Generally, property owners and possessors do not have a duty toward licensees, unless the licensee can show all of the following:
Trespasser: A trespasser is anyone who comes on the property without permission, and without any benefit to the owner or possessor. No duty is owed to a trespasser. Furthermore, there is generally no requirement that the owner or possessor show that the trespasser entered the property illegally.
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