Whether you're actively looking to buy a house or simply
curious about a property listed for sale, an "Open House"
sign may be the invite you were looking for to walk through a
property. Aside from possibly straining your neck while doing a
double-take at a questionable choice of décor, hopefully you
won't experience any injuries while on your tour of the home.
But what if you do?
Property owners should be aware and understand that if someone
is injured on their property, regardless of being invited or not,
they may be liable for that injury – particularly if there is
a hazard or unsafe condition on the property.
However, a property owner may not be the only person who bears
responsibility for and control over the condition of premises, or
the activities carried thereon. There is a duty to take
"reasonable care" to ensure a visitor's safety while
they are on the property. Ontario's Occupiers'
Liability Act includes a definition of "occupier"
that is broad enough to include real estate agents who may be
hosting an open house and inviting individuals onto the
It is important for both property owners and real estate agents
to ensure that the property has the appropriate home insurance
coverage (or business insurance coverage for commercial properties)
to respond to a claim if one arises. Moreover, if an owner or agent
has engaged the services of an independent contractor in
preparation for an open house – such as a furniture staging
company – they should ensure they have insurance and
carefully review contracts that can shift the liability from the
contractors to the owners and/or real estate agents.
Take Reasonable Care
Aside from having adequate insurance coverage, owners and agents
should ensure that a property is well-lit, that walkways are clear
of ice or debris, and that hazards (slippery floors, missing
handrails, gaps, cracks, holes or sudden changes in elevation,
etc.) are fixed or clearly marked with warnings to reduce the
likelihood of an incident, which could result in injuries to
When courts are asked to decide if an occupier exercised
reasonable care over a property, they may look at a number of
factors, including but not limited to: was there a foreseeable
hazard or danger; was the property well maintained and inspected
regularly for any hazards; were potential hazards clearly marked
and brought to the attention of individuals on the property; were
any hazards attended to in a reasonable amount of time; and/or were
the occupiers advised of hazards and did NOT take any measure to
remediate the problem.
If you are injured, while at an open house, you may be eligible
to claim against an occupier for damages such as pain and
suffering, medical bills, and lost income and/or other
It should be noted that as a claimant, there is an onus on you
to ensure that you walk in a safe and prudent manner while on
someone else's property. As such, claimants are held to be
partially responsible in contributing to their own misfortune of
suffering any injuries, if they are found to be negligent.
Some factors that will support an individual having contributed
to his/her own injuries include whether they: failed to take
reasonable care for their own safety; had difficulty traversing a
part of the property, yet continued to do so; were distracted due
to being on a cellphone; were running, or in a rush to get
somewhere; were not watching where they were going; and/or had a
previous medical condition that contributed to the injury.
What You Should Do
Ideally, a visit to an open house should be a good experience.
Responsible home owners and agents should be aware of any potential
hazards that individuals may encounter while there and should fix
or bring such hazards to the attention of individuals on the
property as they have a duty to keep them safe while there.
You should heed all hazard warnings, take caution not to rush
through unfamiliar places, avoid areas if you are having difficulty
accessing them, and generally pay attention to your surroundings
and conduct yourself in a safe and prudent manner that would not
ordinarily put you at risk.
If you are injured, be sure to document the event as soon as
possible with as much detail as possible. Photographs of the scene
of the incident, if possible, are helpful, as well as any witnesses
and their contact details. Stay safe and happy house hunting.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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