What duties do landlords have to their tenants? This is a question that seems to come up all the time in New York City, which boasts more apartments for rent than most major metro areas around the country. Unfortunately, there is a reason that many of the city's landlords are referred to as "slumlords."
Tenants have the right to expect that their apartment and the building it is in are reasonably safe, sanitary and fully operational. This means that repairs are made in a timely fashion and all utilities are in working order. Sadly, countless renters are seriously injured each year because of unsafe premises and landlord negligence.
While it did not occur here in New York, a recent court ruling is a good example of how renters can be injured or killed by landlord negligence. Last month, an Alabama landlord was ordered to pay $500,000 to the family of an 11-year-old girl killed in a 2008 house fire. The family's wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the landlord failed to provide a working smoke detector in the rental property; an omission which likely contributed to her death.
In January 2008, the family was asleep in the home when a fire started on the side of the house opposite the bedrooms. If the smoke detectors had been installed and working properly, the girl may have been given enough warning to escape safely.
The plaintiff's attorney noted that the girl's mother had asked the landlord to fix the smoke detectors on several occasions prior to the fatal blaze, which he did not do. Moreover, the attorney said, "the state fire marshal's office had warned this gentleman two different times in the past. He had a mobile home where an elderly man died in a fire. Now there was so much destruction they couldn't determine if the smoke detectors were working in that home."
In light of these allegations, a ruling against the landlord seems more than appropriate. However, a monetary award is little compensation to a family who lost their young child because a simple but crucial safety device was not in place.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to landlord negligence, please seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Source: WSFA.com, "Landlord forced to pay $500K in 11-year-old's wrongful death lawsuit," Clare Huddleston, July 30, 2014