Understanding the differences between invitees, licensees, and trespassers

Feb 10

Premises owners have the responsibility to ensure that visitors and occupants in his establishment are safe from any injurious accidents arising from any hazard. If a plaintiff successfully proved that the injuries he sustained were a result of the property owner’s negligence, the owner could be liable for the damages the victim incurred. This legal doctrine is called premises liability, and this set of rules may vary from state to state.

But if you will ask a Des Moines personal injury lawyer about the duty of care a property owner has on the victim, he would say that it varies depending on the status of the injured occupier. In premises liability, there are three types of occupiers: invitees, licensees, and trespassers:


Invitees are occupiers that have been invited by the property owner for legal purposes. The invitation can either be expressed or implied, and is usually for the benefit of the property owner. Store customers are typically categorized as invitees. Contractors who the property owner contacted to do some repair works are also regarded as invitees. Property owners have the highest duty of care for invitees. It means that property owners have the responsibility to eliminate hazards that could endanger invitees.


Licensees are occupiers who have no obligations whatsoever for the property owner, but are explicitly or implicitly welcomed by the owner to enter the premises. A neighbour who frequents a property owner’s home can be classified as a licensee. Unlike invitees, licensees enjoy less duty of care from property owners, although owners are expected to warn licensees about the dangers in his premises to avoid injurious accidents.


Trespassers are those who are not lawfully allowed to enter someone else’s premises. Although the law typically does not protect trespassers from inherent dangers, property owners are not allowed to create traps that would intentionally hurt them. However, circumstances could be completely different if the trespasser is a child. Because young children oftentimes don’t have an idea what could hurt them, an owner could be liable for failing to secure attractive nuisances that have put the child in danger.

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