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What is your legal status on someone else's premises?

If you become injured on someone else's property, whether it is a business or a home, the owner's liability depends in part upon your legal status as a visitor to the property. The standard of care that the law expects of a property owner is different depending on your purpose for being the on the property and whether you are there with the owner's consent. 

According to FindLaw, if you are a trespasser who enters the property for your own purposes without the owner's consent, the owner owes you only a limited duty not to intentionally create an artificial condition or hazard that could cause harm to you without giving a reasonable warning. However, if you are an invitee (e.g., a customer in a store) or social guest in someone's home, the property owner has a responsibility to repair the hazard and/or to warn you of it in the interest of preventing you from coming to harm. 

When it comes to the legal status of visitors to a property, there is a third category: the licensee. Licensees enter the property for their own purposes at the consent of the owner. For example, if you are a plumber or an electrician hired to perform a service at a residence, the law may consider you a licensee. Similarly, if you are a salesperson or political canvasser going door to door to solicit sales or talk to voters, you are also a licensee in the eyes of the law. In the former case, the owner of the property explicitly gives you consent to enter, while in the latter case, the owner's consent is implicit. The law still considers the implicit consent of the property owner valid, but the owner of the property owes you a higher duty of care in the former case than in the latter.

However, if the owner explicitly denies you permission to enter the property, your legal status is a trespasser regardless of the reason for your visit. For example, if the owner has put up signs that specifically deny solicitors entrance to the property, you cannot legally enter without the owner's explicit consent, and the duty of care owed to you is at the lowest level. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 

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