Could it get any worse in Massachusetts for residential landlords? The answer is a loud YES.
Northeast Housing Court Judge David Kerman ruled in the recent case of Sheehan v. Weaver a landlord is "strictly liable" for a drunk tenant's fall through a defective porch guardrail. The Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog cites this as "yet another case demonstrating Massachusetts' inhospitable legal environment towards residential landlords." The case involved Sheehan, the drunken tenant, falling from the roof of a structure owned by Weaver consisting of three residential top units and one floor level commercial unit. The landlord argued his structure should not be considered a commercial "building" within the meaning of the Building Code's strict liability provision as it was predominantly residential. Judge Kerman disagreed ruling "[T]he structure in this case may well be at the outer margin of the class of structures that fall within the ambit of the term 'building' in the strict liability law," ..... "However, it is my opinion that the mixed residential-commercial four-unit non-owner-occupied structure in this case is 'commercial' and 'public' enough to fit within the term 'building' in section 51." The landlord was faced with 100% strict liability; there was reduction for the drunken tenant's own negligence.
The trend in Massachusetts is grossly skewed to the right of tenants. The courts are incredibly forgiving and insanely lenient to residential tenants. The bottom line is - LANDLORDS BEWARE!
Legal Insider contributed by Atty. Judy Field
Judy A. Field, Esq. Law Office of Judy A. Field, P.C. 900 Cummings Center, Suite 306T Beverly, MA 01915 landline (978) 922-0330 cell (978) 500-9530 fax (978) 922-0661 email: firstname.lastname@example.org