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Landlord May Have Breached Covenant of “Fitness for Intended Purpose” by Not Shoveling Driveway

Premises Liability / October 1, 2021

Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, MCL 554.139, a property owner can have exposure for some conditions that they otherwise would not have liability for under the common law. See Allison v AEW Capital Mgt, LLP, 481 Mich 419 (2008).

This was recently underscored in DeGennaro v Rivet Holdings Inc, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued August 26, 2021 (Docket No. 354054).

A landlord breaches its duties under § 139(1)(a) only if snow and/or ice render a sidewalk unfit for its “intended use” (i.e., “walking on it”). DeGennaro, unpub op at 5. This requires the plaintiff to show that the snow or ice was more than a mere inconvenience. Id. at 4.

Although the intended purpose of a driveway is different from that of a sidewalk, in this apartment complex there were no sidewalks, so the panel found that the driveways needed to be fit for walking on in order to meet their “intended use.” DeGennaro, unpub op at 5.

The DeGennaro panel found that, because there was evidence that “the driveway was totally covered with ice,” a jury would have to decide whether the landlord violated § 139(1)(a).

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