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Landlord Liability

Your home should be a place in which you feel safe and secure. However, if you rent or lease a home or an apartment, many important safety features are the responsibility of your landlord. Your landlord is responsible for continuing upkeep of the building where you live, and for keeping your home or apartment in a safe and sanitary condition. Not all landlords, however, are careful and responsible, and injuries to tenants and their guests can occur on unsafe premises. This is where Ohio law steps in and protects the rights of those who have been injured as a result of unsafe conditions in their rented home or apartment.

Landlord Duties

Your landlord is legally obligated to keep your dwelling in a fit and habitable condition and to comply with all housing and safety codes. This includes making all repairs necessary to keep all parts of the premises in good condition, and keeping all common areas safe and sanitary. Additionally, your landlord is responsible for maintaining in good and safe working order all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning fixtures and appliances, and all elevators that are supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord. When a landlord fails to comply with its duties and has notice of an unsafe condition that causes injury, the landlord may be held accountable.

Case Examples

One type of landlord-tenant case that can lead to serious injury is a landlord’s failure to maintain a proper drainage system. If water is not properly drained, it can accumulate and freeze on walkways, which can lead to serious injury from a slip and fall. If a personal injury occurs as a result of a drainage system that violates state or local building codes, a landlord may be responsible for the injury.

Similarly, landlords can be liable for defective steps that cause injury. Deviations in the height of stairway risers or the failure to provide handrails are conditions that can lead to serious harm. A landlord may be liable for injuries caused by a defective stairway when notice has been provided to a landlord that a problem exists.

Another area of critical importance is a landlord’s duty to maintain any heating and ventilating fixtures and appliances. Failure to do so has resulted in severe injury and death by carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation. Additionally, landlords must provide a safe number of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. For example, the Columbus City Code requires that landlords install one smoke detector in the immediate vicinity of each sleeping area. There must also be at least one smoke detector on each story of the structure, including basements. State law requires that landlords install a carbon monoxide detector within ten feet of each sleeping room. The tenant, however, is responsible for testing these detectors and replacing their batteries.

It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain any appliances that can emit carbon monoxide, and ensure that any installation or repair on these appliances is performed correctly and safely. Furnaces, for example, can emit carbon monoxide if not properly installed or if the pipes used to vent the carbon monoxide safely to the exterior of the house are not cleaned and unblocked regularly. Mild carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from a partially blocked pipe can take its toll over months or years, causing chronic fatigue, dizziness, or headaches. In one such case, a woman experienced symptoms for nearly 3 years before her landlord finally checked her furnace, finding that the flue pipe was almost completely blocked and that his negligence had allowed low levels of carbon monoxide to vent into the house for years.

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning, however, can strike suddenly and tragically take the lives of those sleeping in the dwelling. For this reason, proper insulation and maintenance of carbon monoxide detectors is one of a landlord’s most important duties.

Renting or leasing a home takes much of the responsibility for safety and maintenance out of your hands. It places this responsibility, however, in the hands of your landlord, who may or may not fulfill his or her duties. If you have been injured as a result of a landlord’s negligence, the lawyers at Abramson and O’Connell can help you recover the compensation that you deserve.