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Whether you buy real estate as an investment or as a traditional homeowner, it’s important to understand the role common law plays in establishing liability. If you don’t take the time to understand these concepts, you may face litigation from those who have been injured or harmed while on your property. Alternatively, you may act as though you are liable in cases in which you did not have a reasonable duty of care. The more you know about common law in real estate, the better prepared you’ll be to protect your rights.

Adult and Child Trespassers

Under common law definitions, a trespasser is an individual who enters a property without an invitation from the property owner. In some cases, the trespasser may be accessing the property without the owner’s knowledge, as well. While the owner isn’t required to warn adult trespassers of dangers on the property, he is expected to make the property reasonably safe.

Where children are concerned, the property owner does owe a higher duty of care and must take reasonable actions to ensure the safety of child trespassers. This may mean keeping the exterior of the property well maintained or putting up fencing around swimming pools and ponds.

Keeping a Licensee Safe

A licensee is someone who the property owner has invited onto his property for personal reasons. Guests of the property owner fall under this category and the owner owes a higher duty of care to a licensee than to a trespasser. The property owner is required to warn a licensee of any dangers present on the property and to ensure the licensee fully comprehends those dangers. If the property owner fails in this regard and the licensee is injured, the property owner can be held liable.

Protecting an Invitee

An invitee is someone who has been welcomed onto the property for either business or commercial reasons. Since those reasons must benefit the real estate owner, it’s up to the owner to ensure the safety of the invitee. When the likelihood of harm to the invitee is unreasonable, and the dangers are known to the owner, the property owner must take action to protect the invitee. This may mean restricting an invitee’s actions on the property to ensure his safety.

Often real estate law and common law work together to create the conditions for property owner liability. Unless laws in your region differ, these guidelines can help you understand your liability in different circumstances. Understanding liability enables you to take the necessary action to protect various visitors to your property, so you can avoid incidents that could lead to legal action against you.