Owners and landlords of commercial and residential property should have their premises inspected for full compliance with all applicable codes and regulations — or face potentially severe penalties if and when a person is injured as a result of code violations.
Property owners are held “strictly liable” for violations of the state building and sanitary codes, meaning that even if they have no personal knowledge of any existing defects, they will be held fully responsible for compensating an injured party for all of his or her damages (up to and including medical bills, pain and suffering, property repairs, and possibly attorney’s fees).
In the residential context, an injured party will typically bring a claim under the “implied warranty of habitability” in order to hold a building owners strictly liable. In most cases, a building or sanitary code violation will constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability, as well as a violation of Massachusetts General Law c.93A (Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act). Property owners may be forced to compensate an injured party with triple (3X) the amount of their actual damages if liability is entered under c.93A. Common code violations in the residential context include inadequate or non-functioning heating or electricity; insect and rodent infestations; and faulty stairways or fixtures (railings, balconies, etc.).
In the commercial context, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 143 Section 51 sets forth that any owner, lessee, mortgagee in possession, or occupant of a manufacturing establishment or other building (including public halls and assemblies) shall be liable for damages resulting from code violations. Recent cases have indicated that §51 implies a standard of strict liability for injuries resulting from code violations on commercial property.