South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Lack of Handrail an Apparent Defect in Rental House
Description Appeals court held that the lack of a handrail on stairs leading from one floor in a house to another floor was an apparent defect. When a tenant fell on the stairs and suffered an injury, there was no suit against the landlord for negligence in maintenance of the property.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Landlord; Duty; Apparent Defect
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Newmans rented a house from Kukis. When they saw the house before they rented it, the handrail on the steps going from the first floor to the second floor was missing, but there was no discussion of that fact. The lease stated that Newmans took the property “as is except for conditions materially affecting the safety or health of ordinary persons.” The second day in the house, Newman fell on the second-to-the-bottom step when carrying her one-year old downstairs. Falling forward into the entryway, she broke her ankle and sued Kukis for negligence for failing to exercise ordinary care in the condition of the residence. The jury found both parties 50 percent responsible and awarded Newman half of the $45,500 damages. Kukis appealed.

Reversed. The absence of a handrail was an apparent defect for which the landlord owed the tenant no duty to warn. A tenant takes leased property as he finds it, assuming the risk of apparent defects. The defect had not been concealed and there is no evidence of other injuries related to it. In general, a landlord has no duty to tenants or their invitees for dangerous conditions on the premises because the landlord relinquishes possession upon leasing the property.

Citation Kukis v. Newman, --- S.W.2d --- (2003 WL 22724985, Ct. App., Tex., 2003)

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