How Can You Tell If Your Landlord Has Created a Dangerous Situation?
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You and your landlord divide responsibilities for your property. Both of you are obligated to keep the property safe, though some safety requirements are your landlord’s obligation and some are yours. In general, as long as you do not cause damage to the property and keep it clean and well cared for, maintaining a safe property is your landlord’s responsibility. How can you tell if your landlord is creating a dangerous situation? Use this short checklist:
- Habitability — Your landlord is obligated to maintain your unit’s habitability, which includes complying with state and local building and health codes. This means functioning heat and plumbing, working electrical system, a well-repaired infrastructure (floor, roofs, staircases), trash receptacles and sanitary buildings and grounds, without garbage or pests. The habitability rule does not apply to things you as a tenant destroy. You are responsible for those. But if you are at risk for harm or disease because of your landlord’s refusal to clean up, he or she is liable.
- Specific components — In addition to general habitability, your landlord must also provide some particular elements associated with safety and sanitation. These include a working toilet, a kitchen sink, natural lighting in all rooms with windows that open at least partially, cleared fire exits, working door locks (including a deadbolt for the front door), functioning smoke detectors and even a locking mailbox. If you suffer harm from poor ventilation (perhaps including mold) or injury because of faulty fire detectors or door locks, your landlord may be the cause.
Again, any damages you make to the property are your own responsibility — a key reason to carry renters’ insurance, even if your lease does not require it. But if your landlord creates a situation that puts you at physical risk or has caused you physical harm, you are entitled to legal remedies.