Duty of care and liability: Understanding New York's premises law

Duty of care and liability: Understanding New York's premises law

If you own or manage property in New York State, you have big responsibilities. You must keep your property safe for people who visit. This responsibility is called 'duty of care.' It changes based on who is visiting: invitees, licensees, or trespassers. Understanding this duty is important. It keeps visitors safe and reduces your legal risks. This guide will explain the different types of visitors. It will talk about common legal issues with property safety. It will also give you tips to keep your property safe and follow the law.

The idea of duty of care for property owners

If you own or manage a property, one of your main jobs is to keep it safe for people who come onto it. This is known as the "duty of care." How much you need to do to keep things safe depends on who's visiting your property.

Keeping customers and public visitors safe (invitees)

Invitees are people who visit your property for business or public activities. This includes activities like shopping or attending events. You need to be extra careful to keep these people safe.

What to do for invitees:

  • Check your property regularly for any dangers.
  • Fix any problems as soon as you can.
  • If there’s something dangerous you can’t fix right away, make sure you tell your invitees so they know to be careful.
Unsure if a property owner's negligence caused your injury? Let our experienced attorneys assess your situation and provide the guidance you need. Reach out for a free case evaluation today.

Looking after guests with permission (licensees)

Licensees are visitors like friends or someone who comes over with your okay. Your main job is to tell them about any dangers they might not notice by themselves.

How to care for licensees:

  • If there’s a tricky step or a slippery floor they might not see, let them know.
  • You don’t have to inspect your property as for invitees, but do warn them about anything risky you know about.

Dealing with people without permission (trespassers)

Trespassers are people who come onto your property without your permission. The rules are simpler here – you have to make sure you don't harm them.

Basic Rules for Trespassers:

  • You don’t need to warn them about dangers or make the place safe for them.
  • Just avoid doing anything that would intentionally hurt them, like setting traps.
Visitor Type Definition Duty of Care Owed by Property Owner Examples
Invitees Individuals entering the property for a purpose related to the owner's business or a public purpose Highest duty of care: Ensure property safety and warn of known dangers Customers in a store, public event attendees
Licensees Individuals who enter for their own purpose, but with the owner's permission Moderate duty of care: Warn of known dangers not likely to be discovered by the licensee Social guests, door-to-door salespeople
Trespassers Individuals entering the property without any right or permission Lowest duty of care: Refrain from willful or wanton harm Someone entering private land without permission
Have you been injured on someone else's property? Contact us now to understand your rights as an invitee, licensee, or even a trespasser. Our legal team is ready to evaluate your case

Key elements influencing liability

If you are a property owner or manager, understanding your legal responsibilities is crucial. Let's explore the main factors that decide your liability in case of an accident on your property.

Predicting and acknowledging hazards

It is very important to learn how to predict and be aware of possible dangers on your property. This helps determine your legal responsibility. 

The role of foreseeability

One of the main questions in these cases is whether a hazard was something you could have predicted. For instance, if there's a loose floorboard that's been there for months, you likely should have known about it. You should have fixed it. 

Awareness of the hazard

It's not just about whether you actually knew about a hazard; it's also about whether you should have known. This means regular checks and maintenance are important. They help you stay aware of any potential risks on your property. 

Comparative negligence and its impact

Find out about comparative negligence. This is where the injured person's own actions can impact the result of a legal claim.

Shared responsibility in accidents

There are times when the injured person may be partly to blame for their injury. This is called comparative negligence. For instance, if someone ignores a warning sign and then gets hurt, their part in what happened could lower your legal responsibility.

Special rules in different areas

Explore how local regulations and specific conditions, like snow removal and crime prevention, can significantly influence liability in premises liability cases.

Adapting to local regulations

In New York State, certain laws and rules govern property safety. Property owners and managers need to know these to follow the law and reduce legal risks. Here are some examples:

  • NYC Administrative Code § 7-210

Owners or managers next to sidewalks must clear snow and ice. This applies to sidewalks and lots near their properties.

  • NYC Administrative Code § 16-123

This rule requires those who own, lease, or occupy properties to remove snow from sidewalks within four hours after snow stops. This rule is specific to New York City.

  • Constructive Notice requirements

In cases about ice or refreeze, the injured person must show that the owner knew or should have known about the danger. Owners need to regularly check their properties and fix hazards quickly.

  • Attractive nuisance doctrine for children

This applies when children are involved, especially if they're trespassing. Owners must warn about dangers that might attract children, like unfenced pools or dangerous objects.

Timely removal of snow and ice

In areas with harsh winters, you're often required to clear snow and ice within a certain timeframe. If someone slips because you didn’t clear your walkway in time, you could be held responsible.

Liability for criminal acts

In some places, if there's a high risk of crime, you need to take reasonable steps to protect people on your property. This could mean installing better lighting or security systems.

Common types of premises liability cases

As a property owner or manager, it's essential to be aware of typical scenarios that could result in someone getting injured. You could be responsible for their injuries. Let's look at what you need to watch out for.

Watch out for slip and fall accidents

One of the most frequent issues you'll face are slip and fall accidents. This can happen because of things like wet floors, icy paths, or uneven ground. To keep everyone safe and avoid legal trouble, make sure to spot and fix these hazards.

Slip and fall accidents can have serious consequences. If you have been injured in such an incident, our team can help you navigate your legal options. Get in touch for a detailed case review.

The risks of not maintaining your property

When you don't take care of your property, dangerous situations can happen. Issues such as malfunctioning lights or hazardous stairs not only pose a risk to people's safety but also can lead to legal issues if someone is injured. So, it's important to regularly check your property and fix any problems right away.

Safety in special areas like elevators and pools

Different parts of your property will need special attention:

  • Elevators

Make sure they are well-maintained and checked often to avoid accidents.

  • Swimming pools

To prevent dangers like drowning, keep your pool area safe with proper fencing and clear signs about any risks.

  • Animals on the property

If you have pets or other animals, ensure they are secure and can't harm visitors.

Other important premises liability scenarios

There are other less common but still important situations to be aware of:

  • Fire safety

Keep fire alarms and exits working properly. This is crucial for everyone's safety.

  • Hazardous materials

If your property has things like lead paint or asbestos, handle them and tell people about these dangers.

  • Outdoor areas

If you have outdoor spaces, watch out for risks like open holes, shaky structures, or trails that aren't clearly marked.

Proactive measures for property owners

As a property owner, taking steps to reduce legal risks and enhance safety is not just smart, it's essential. Let's explore how you can be proactive and create a safer space for everyone.

Following safety regulations

A great way to keep yourself and your visitors safe is to follow safety standards. These rules are designed to prevent accidents. Be sure to know the regulations for your property. This could be fire safety codes, building standards, or health guidelines. Following these rules helps you avoid legal issues. It also helps build trust with people who visit your property.

Making regular maintenance a priority

Regular inspections and maintenance are key to avoiding accidents. This includes repairing broken steps, changing faulty lights, and handling other safety risks. Routine upkeep does more than solve problems – it prevents them. By spotting issues early, you can lower the chance of accidents and the legal problems they can bring.

Keeping up with legal developments

Property safety laws and rules can change. Staying updated on these changes is crucial for property owners. You might need to subscribe to legal updates, join a property owners' association, or talk to legal experts. Being informed helps you adjust to new rules. This ensures you always follow the law and keep your property safe.

Embracing a safety-first approach

Taking these proactive steps goes beyond just legal safety. It's about building a culture of safety. When you put the wellbeing of everyone on your property first, you create a safe environment. This not only lowers legal risks but also makes your property a welcoming and safe place for all.

If you're facing a premises liability issue, our law firm is here to assist. Contact us now for expert legal advice and representation.


In summary, if you own property, you need to pay attention to premises liability. This means being alert, taking safety steps ahead of time, and knowing your legal duties. Keeping up to date and getting advice from legal experts is very helpful. This is true whether you own property or if you've been hurt on someone else's property. Putting safety and legal knowledge first is key to dealing with the complex issues of premises liability.

Let us help you with getting a fair compensation for your accident
Have you experienced an accident? Our team of top-notch professionals is here to ensure
Book a free consultation