Americans are a mobile people. We like the freedom of the open road and the ability to move from place to place without limits or restrictions. And we take advantage of this freedom. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, about 40 million Americans move each year. That comes out to about 14% of the total population that changes their homes annually. Unfortunately, when you move into a new house or apartment, you often don’t know a whole lot about the landlord you will be renting from. If you are one of those moving into a new home rental, it is important for you to understand the legal aspects of landlord liability. This can protect you from an unjust or unscrupulous landlord and keep you and your family safe.
- Injuries on a rental property—If a person is injured while on a rental property, then he or she can hold the landlord responsible if the landlord was negligent in maintaining the property and this negligence was the “proximate” cause of the injury. This can include falling down a stairway, for example, if the landlord has not properly maintained the handrail and it is the cause of the fall.
- Security—There is no absolute requirement that a landlord must keep the property so secure as to make it impregnable from thieves. However, they are responsible for maintaining some levels of security. In an apartment building, the common areas such as entryways, mailboxes, and laundry rooms or other facilities must be well lit to prevent criminals from hiding out in them. There should also be some form of security such as surveillance cameras or security monitoring. In addition, landlords are expected to maintain basic security for the property itself. That means the home or apartment must have working locks on the windows and a working lock, such as a deadbolt, on the doors. This is a basic standard of care that must be met. If it is not and a criminal enters the home through the unlocked door or window, then the landlord may be liable for not providing working locks.
- Fire safety—Unfortunately, fires do happen and sometimes it is impossible to foresee that it could occur. Every year, about 360,000 home fires occur in the United States. Although landlords are not liable per se if a fire occurs, they can be held liable if they do not provide adequate repairs to electrical wiring. Should this wiring malfunction and cause a fire, the negligence of maintaining the wiring can lead to a liability claim. In addition, the landlord should also make sure that smoke detectors are in place and working.
- Nuisances—Finally, a landlord has the obligation to maintain an orderly rental environment. That means that if the landlord fails to deal with unruly or illegal behavior from other tenants, then he may be held liable for the behavior of that tenant. For instance, if the landlord does nothing about an apartment tenant who is dealing drugs out of the apartment, then he may be liable for the actions of that tenant.
If you are about to move into a new property, it is imperative that you are aware of your rights as a tenant. However, if you have been injured due to the negligence of a landlord, then you do not have to suffer in silence. The attorneys of Wolf & Pravato are here to help you by informing you of your rights and reviewing your case.