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Did a homeowner owe you a duty of care?

If you sustain an injury at a person’s home, you may wonder if you can sue said person for compensation. The answer really depends on the type of visitor you were and whether the homeowner owed you a duty of care.

According to FindLaw, visitors generally fall into one of three categories: licensees, invitees and trespassers. Homeowners owe invitees the highest duty of care, while trespassers have little to no legal grounds to recover compensation from a homeowner. Learn more about the three types of visitors to determine which category you fall into.


If you had permission — either express or implicit — to be in a person’s home, but if you do did have a contractual relationship with said person, the law considers you a licensee. The most common status of licensees is “social guest.”

Homeowners have little responsibility to protect licensees from hazards. In fact, the law usually only holds homeowners accountable for the wanton or willful injury to a licensee. What this means is that homeowners must exercise just enough caution to prevent licensees from sustaining injuries in their homes. “Just enough” means that homeowners must warn licensees when they know that said licensees are within range of dangerous conditions or actions.


If a homeowner invited you into his or her home for a lawful purpose, such as to fix the kitchen sink or watch his or her children, your status elevates to an invitee. Homeowners have a duty to invitees to exercise reasonable caution to keep their premises safe. You can become an invitee when a homeowner implicitly invites you in via customary phrases such as “please come in,” or when your invitation is inferred or implied. Contractors are the most common type of invitee.


Homeowners have little to no responsibility to protect trespassers from harm. If you entered a home without permission or a lawful right to be in it, a legal pursuit for compensation will likely be futile. However, if a homeowner anticipated your arrival as a trespasser and prepared a trap to purposely cause you harm, you may have a claim. The same is true if a homeowner knew you regularly trespassed on his or her property and failed to exercise ordinary care to prevent harm from befalling you.

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