Property owners have certain duties and obligations to the individuals who are on their property, depending on the reason for the visit.
Generally, property owners do not owe any duty to trespassers. However, if you have a legitimate reason to be on someone’s property, they can be held liable for your injuries.
If you are legitimately on the premises, then you are likely either a “licensee” or an “invitee.”
But, what is the difference between licensee and invitee?
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A Licensee is There for His Own Purpose
Unlike a trespasser, both a licensee and an invitee have the permission of the property owner to be on the property. The difference between licensee and invitee is that, a licensee is there for her own amusement, whereas an invitee is usually there for the benefit of the property owner. A licensee would be, for example, a guest at a party or a family friend who is visiting. Although they have an invitation or permission to be on the premises, there is no direct benefit to the property owner.
A more uncommon example of a licensee could be a person who enters a store or business, but is not there to shop. Instead, he may just be asking for directions, or to use the restroom. In that case, he would be considered a licensee instead of an invitee.
An Invitee is Invited by the Property Owner
An invitee is someone invited onto the premises for the benefit of the property owner. There are two types of invitees: a business invitee or a public invitee.
The distinction is really the type or property or the reason for the visit. For instance, if you are at a store to buy merchandise being sold by the store, then you are clearly a business invitee. If the property happens to be made available to the public, such as a park or library, then you would be considered a public invitee.
What are the Different Duties Owed to Each?
The duty a property owner owes to someone visiting the property depends on the classification of the visitor.
Generally speaking, property owners have a duty to take reasonable care to protect the visitor from known dangerous conditions on the property. If the owner knew of a condition on his property that would pose an unreasonable risk of harm, which his visitors could not reasonably be expected to recognize, the owner must take reasonable care to either eliminate the danger or warn visitors.
Invitees are afforded the most protection, however, because they are on the premises for the specific purpose of furthering the business of the property owner. This means, with respect to invitees, the property owner must take the extra step of inspecting the premises and making sure it is safe.