SW Legal studies in Business

Landlords Have No Duty to Keep Public Alley Safe and Clear

Montana high court held that the landlords of buildings on either side of a public alley had no obligation to keep the alley safe for use by tenants and guests. The alley is public property, not common property under the landlords’ control, so there was no obligation to keep it clear of snow and ice.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Landlord-Tenant; Common Property; Safety; Duty; Ice

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Fishburn owned an apartment building on one side of an alley; Neumann owned the apartment building on the other side of the alley. Willden was visiting her son who lived in one of the buildings. She suffered injuries when she slipped and fell on ice in the alley when going to the apartment building. She sued Fishburn and Neumann for violating their duty as landlords to keep safe all common areas of their premises. The ice was a clear and foreseeable danger to tenants and guests. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the landlords. Willden appealed.


Affirmed. The alley between apartment buildings is not a common area that the landlords had a duty to keep in clean and safe condition, even though tenants and guests used the alley to access the parking areas for the buildings. The alley is public property over which the landlords have no control. They may not allow or prohibit use of the alley. By city ordinance, landlords do have an obligation to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice, but an alley is like a street and there is no obligation to clear it of snow and ice. The hazard posed by the ice was open and obvious to members of the public who walked in the alley.


Willden v. Neumann, 189 P.3d 610 (Sup. Ct., Mont., 2008)

Back to Real and Personal Property Listings

©1997-2009  South-Western Legal Studies in Business. All Rights Reserved.