Published on: March 15, 2011

The statutory duty of a landlord under G.L.c. 186, §19, to exercise reasonable care to correct an unsafe condition described in a written notice from a tenant applies to commercial leases, the Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in an issue of first impression.

The issue arose in a case involving a tanning salon with a leaking roof.  Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Murtagh entered a directed verdict for the defendant landlord, on the theory that G.L. c.186, §17, only applies to residential landlords.

The SJC disagreed, reversed and ordered a remand, holding that the legislative intent of G.L. c.186, §17, was to apply to all landlords, both commercial and residential, further holding that:

“The jury reasonably could have found that, because the leaks in the roof at or around the skylights were near the electrical tanning beds, an unsafe condition existed of which the landlord had notice; and because the landlord had a statutory duty to repair the unsafe condition, but failed to do so, the injury that resulted was caused by the landlord’s breach,” Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote for a unanimous court.

The decision on Bishop v. TES Realty Trust, et al. can be found by clicking here.

If you would like further information please contact Ed Allcock at eallcock@meeb.com or at 781-843-5000 (150).