Licensee vs. Invitee vs. Trespasser Explained

Delivery worker hand off a package. licensee vs invitee.

Understanding the difference between licensees, invitees, and trespassers is crucial for both property owners and visitors, as it dictates the level of care owed by the property owner and the rights of the visitor. In legal terms, these classifications can significantly influence the outcome of a premises liability claim. In this blog post, we will delve into the definitions of licensee, invitee, and trespasser, examine the duties of property owners to each, and discuss the potential legal ramifications of these distinctions.

Licensee Status

When you are a social guest at a person’s house, you are a licensee. Delivery workers, such as mail carriers, also fall into the licensee category. Licensees are those invited onto a property either directly or through implication. For example, if you are invited to a backyard barbeque with a verbal or written invitation, you have been directly invited. Mail carriers do not receive these direct invitations, but are expected, unless otherwise instructed, to enter your property to deliver mail each day as part of their daily work responsibilities.

Texas Property Owners Responsibilities to Licensees

Property owners must inform licensees of any known danger and take measures to correct the condition or make it “safe.” For example, weakened stoop railings could cause guests to lose balance and fall if leaned against, so homeowners must take care to fix the railing and, in the meantime, alert guests to the problem. The homeowner might attach caution tape or other indications to the railing to prevent guests from using it.

Property owners are not responsible for injuries visitors sustain from unknown dangers unless it is a hazard the property owner should have reasonably known about. While a homeowner is not expected to scour their property for hidden dangers, they cannot plead ignorance – at least not successfully in court –if the injury came from an obvious danger.

Licensees Are Also Responsible for Their Own Safety

Though property owners owe licensees a duty of care, the licensees themselves are also responsible for acting in ways to preserve their own safety. If there is a hazardous condition on the property and it is apparent, licensees must take care to avoid it. Further, if they engage in risky behavior while on the property, they may be found liable for causing their own injuries.

For example, if a teenager or young adult who should “know better” decides to ride down a banister and that banister breaks under the person’s weight, the resulting injury will not necessarily be attributed to a negligent homeowner. The thrill-rider should have reasonably known the risk they were taking.

Just as for licensees, property owners must warn invitees of known dangers. However, they must also have measures in place to correct those hazards promptly and must take reasonable steps to find and correct less apparent dangers on their property. As you might expect, victims and potentially at-fault property owners interpret “reasonable” differently.

Invitee Status

An invitee’s presence on a property is transactional. They enter a property for business that will benefit the property owner.  Examples of invitees include:

  • Restaurant patrons
  • Store customers
  • Amusement park guests
  • Hotel guests
  • Apartment building tenants
  • Hospital patients
  • Business clients

shopper pushing a cart at grocery storeProperty Owners and Managers Owe Invitees the Highest Duty of Care

Property owners or managers owe these guests the highest duty of care. Any accident for an injury on their property could be grounds for a premises liability claim if the property owner’s negligence caused that accident. For example, invitees may be hurt by:

  • Inadequate security. Tenants in an apartment building could be harmed by intruders who access the space by bypassing negligent security such as weak locks or unsecured windows, perhaps. Mall shoppers could be accosted in a parking lot lacking sufficient security patrols.
  • Inadequate fire protection. Tenants, shoppers, clients, or others visiting a business could be harmed in a fire if alarms are not maintained or other fire safety measures are not in place.
  • Slip-and-fall accidents. Wet floors, uneven flooring, torn carpets, and potholed pavement can lead to slips, trips, and falls. Property owners must mark these dangers, and fix them promptly, to protect invitees.
  • Poor lighting. Insufficient lighting in hallways, stairwells, and other areas can also lead to slips, trips, and falls.

Licensees, Invitees, and No-Entry Areas

Licensees and invitees are responsible for keeping themselves out of areas closed to visitors. A homeowner may tell guests to stay out of a basement as it undergoes renovation or because it is where tools or other potentially dangerous equipment is kept. Business owners often have spaces marked with “employee only” or “no entry” signs, and invitees must honor those directives.

If such warnings are not given or posted, however, licensees and invitees can hold property owners responsible for this lapse with help from a skilled Texas premises liability attorney.

Trespasser Status Explained

Texas’ property and landowner liability laws are extensive and complicated. They include statutes establishing a property owner’s responsibility to an injured trespasser. Texas law defines a trespasser as “a person who enters the land of another without any legal right, express or implied.”

Property owners, or those occupying or leasing the property, do not owe a duty of care to a trespasser and are not liable for injuries the trespasser sustains. The property owners only must refrain from intentionally causing harm to the trespasser.

Exceptions for Child Trespassers

Child trespassers are offered some protections under Texas law. If the landowner has “highly dangerous artificial condition” on the property, they face additional responsibilities. These artificial conditions, also called “attractive nuisances,” are structures such as swimming pools, play structures, trampolines, and even old, empty vehicles that could both entice children and pose risks to their safety.

The law acknowledges children do not always recognize risk or realize they might have entered a property unlawfully. Therefore, it is the property owner’s legal duty to be proactive, securing these enticing risks and keeping children safe from accidental drowning, falls, and / or other injuries.

We Fight to Hold Negligent Property Owners Accountable

Julie Wolf TeamIf you are injured on someone else’s property, connect with our Texas premises liability lawyers who will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Negligent property owners must be held accountable for the damage they have caused. Our experienced premises liability lawyers in Texas will work tirelessly to get you substantial compensation for your losses. We offer free consultations in both Spanish and English.