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Landlord Liability Attorneys in California Helping Tenants Protect their Rights
If you are renting a house or apartment, you have the right to live on safe, well-maintained premises. Landlords who fail to maintain your home in a reasonably safe condition can be responsible for compensating you for any injuries that occur as a result of their negligence.
Some injuries, such as a minor burn or tripping, might not be too serious. But some injuries – like a child falling into a pool – can be catastrophic. It is important for all California renters to know what rights they have after they have been injured on a rental property.
At Arash Law, we believe in protecting injury victims’ rights to compensation after an accident. Landlords must be held accountable for failing to maintain their properties in a safe condition – otherwise, more innocent victims could be hurt by a dangerous condition that is left unfixed.
Our experienced injury attorneys have over twenty years of experience. We have collected over 200 million dollars for accident victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. Whatever type of injury you have sustained as a result of a landlord’s negligence, we can help you access the compensation you deserve. Call (888) 488-1391 to schedule your free consultation with an experienced California injury lawyer.
WHAT IS LANDLORD LIABILITY?
Liability means legal responsibility for an accident or injury. For example, if two drivers are involved in an accident, the insurance companies or a court must determine which one was liable for causing the accident. This is because the liable driver has a legal obligation to compensate victims for their accident-related injuries.
A car accident is not, of course, the only way a person can be injured. Many people are injured in and around the home. The National Safety Council reports that about three of every four preventable, injury-related deaths in the U.S. in 2017 occurred in the home or community. This is partly due to the fact that there are so many different ways a person can be injured around the house. Fire and smoke inhalation, drowning, falls, and poisoning are some of the most common household injuries.
If you rent property, your landlord has a legal obligation to maintain the home in a safe condition. Landlords who fail to do so can be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of their negligence. There are several different types of liability that can make a landlord responsible for compensating you for your injuries.
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Landlords have a legal obligation to use due care in managing their properties. The care that is owed to tenants is that which would be used by a “reasonably prudent” landlord. Case law has interpreted different situations to determine what, exactly, is reasonable to expect a landlord to do to maintain his or her property in a safe condition.
Property owners also have a duty of care to maintain common areas. Pools, spas, stairways, and other common areas have many hazards that can cause injuries to tenants and their guests. Because landlords have a duty of care to maintain common areas as well as rental premises, they can be held liable for injuries that occur there.
So what would the “reasonably prudent” landlord do to maintain his or her rental property? The answer varies depending on the circumstances. Here are some common examples in which a landlord could be held liable:
- The landlord fails to respond to requests for repairs or notification of a dangerous condition (such as photos).
- The landlord fails to make a promised repair to correct a dangerous condition in a timely manner.
- The repair is not finished, not completed correctly, or otherwise made in a negligent manner.
- The landlord does not warn the tenant of a dangerous condition that is not apparent to the tenant at the time the lease is made. (For example, flooding rain gutters might not be apparent if you view the property on a sunny day, but the landlord likely knows about this condition and should warn tenants of the flooding hazard when it rains.)
One critical aspect of liability is the landlord’s knowledge of the condition. If a tenant does not make the landlord aware of a condition that arises during occupancy, the landlord usually cannot be held liable for correcting it.
It can be difficult to prove a landlord’s negligence. Often, it comes down to whether an insurance company or jury agrees that the landlord was negligent. In some circumstances, however, a landlord is in violation of applicable zoning laws or building codes. The landlord might be violating other administrative codes or safety rules, or even clear rules that are codified in the California statutes. These violations are strong evidence of negligence.
For example, many cities and counties require a fence meeting detailed specifications around any pool. A landlord whose pool does not have the required fence is in violation of the city ordinance, and this is strong evidence of negligence. A parent whose child gets injured in the pool will, therefore, have a strong personal injury case against the landlord.
COMMON TENANT INJURIES
There are many different injuries a person can sustain in and around the house. Here are some common injuries for which a landlord might be held liable:
- Burns that occur due to a faulty water heater, or water heaters that are set too hot. This is especially dangerous for the very young and older adults.
- Drowning and near-drownings incidents that happen due to dangerous conditions in or around a pool. A landlord will usually not be liable for injuries sustained by an adult who could not swim but chose to go into the pool anyway. That said, landlords can often be held liable for faulty pool gates that fail to keep young children out. Young children do not know better, and landlords have special obligations to follow requires safety laws to protect them.
- Children are also likely to be injured on playgrounds, splash pads, and other recreational equipment in common areas. Landlords have a duty to maintain these areas safely. Because they are designed for children, the landlord’s duty of care is higher when it comes to these areas.
- Stairs are a common source of injury. This is especially common on outdoor stairwells, which are exposed to the elements and often not well-lit. A landlord can be held liable for slips, trips and falls that occur on a poorly maintained stairwell.
- Falling housing material – such as a roof, ceiling tiles, drywall, and exterior siding – is often the result of negligence. Properties that are properly maintained typically do not have materials falling on their residents. If you have been injured by such an item, your landlord might be liable for your resulting injuries.
- Larger rental complexes often have storage facilities for landscaping, maintenance, and cleaning materials. Adults are presumed to know to stay away from these hazards. But if these materials are left open to young children, a landlord might be liable for injuries the child sustains. Heavy equipment and dangerous chemicals in these areas can cause serious – sometimes deadly – injuries to small children.
HOW DO I FILE A LIABILITY CLAIM AGAINST MY LANDLORD?
As we have seen, there are many ways to prove that your injuries are a direct result of your landlord’s negligence. Here is how you go about filing a claim against your landlord:
CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY ABOUT YOUR CLAIM
Landlord liability claims can be difficult to prove. In many cases, the law is not entirely clear about what conduct constitutes landlord negligence. This is why it is so important to consult with an attorney about your claim. An attorney will be able to determine what evidence is needed to prove that your landlord knew about the condition and failed to respond appropriately.
An attorney will also be able to evaluate any possible legal defense your landlord could raise to avoid liability. For example, your landlord might not be liable for injuries caused by a “supervening cause.” If a thief got in through a faulty gate and robbed and hurt you, the thief’s actions were the cause of your injury. The landlord would likely not be held liable unless there was evidence that similar incidents had occurred in the past, and he or she had been notified of the consequences of the faulty lock and failed to act.
OPEN A CLAIM WITH THE LANDLORD OR MANAGEMENT COMPANY’S INSURANCE CARRIER
Most landlords carry homeowners’ insurance or other liability policies to protect them in the event of a personal injury claim filed by a tenant. In some cases, a property management company might also be liable for failing to take reasonable steps to protect tenants. Consult with an attorney about all potential defendants who might be responsible for your injuries.
When you open a claim with a liability insurance carrier, the insurance company has a limited time in which to investigate the claim and either accept or deny liability. If the insurance company accepts liability, they are admitting that the landlord was legally at fault for the accident. Your attorney can then negotiate the value of the claim with the insurance company’s claims adjuster.
If the insurance company denies liability, your attorney might be able to speak to a supervisor or attorney at the company to help them see why their insured landlord is, in fact, liable for your injuries. If the insurance company continues to deny liability, you might have to file a lawsuit in order to have a court determine whether the landlord is at fault for causing your injuries.
IF NECESSARY, FILE A LAWSUIT IN THE APPROPRIATE COURT
If the insurance company denies liability or refuses to make a fair settlement offer, your attorney will likely advise you to file a lawsuit against the landlord. Jury trials are available for claims over the amount specified in California statutes.
Most personal injury claims meet this threshold, and it is important to exercise your right to a jury trial when necessary. If you do not, insurance companies can continue denying claims wrongfully and making lowball settlement offers on valid injury claims.
Furthermore, landlords will not be held accountable for dangerous conditions, and more innocent tenants throughout California will be places in danger of being injured on their rental properties.
OTHER REMEDIES FOR LANDLORD VIOLATIONS
Injured and aggrieved tenants have legal remedies other than a personal injury claim. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides a helpful website with information specific to California tenants’ rights. Tenants should also look for local boards, agencies, and other groups that provide housing information specific to your local area.
- Any California tenant can file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing if you believe you have been discriminated against based upon a protected legal status (such as race or family status). There are also local offices that address housing discrimination, such as the Fair Housing Council of Orange County.
- Los Angeles County Consumer and Business Affairs provides information specific to landlord and tenant issues.
- There are many local groups committed to advocating for tenants and helping them enforce their legal rights. The San Francisco Tenants Union, Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, and the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco are just three of many such organizations across California. A basic internet search will help you find organizations in your area.
- Orange County 211 lets residents search for various services in Orange County – including tenants’ rights counseling.
- The Tenants Legal Center provides information and resources for tenants in San Diego.
EXPERIENCED CALIFORNIA LANDLORD LIABILITY ATTORNEYS
The best accident lawyers in California are right here at Arash Law. Our experienced injury attorneys have over twenty years of experience. We have collected over 200 million dollars for our clients. We have helped accident victims in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks and throughout California. We can help you access all sources of compensation so that your legal rights are protected.
Whatever type of injury you have sustained as a result of a landlord’s negligence, we can help you access the compensation you deserve. Call (888) 488-1391 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with an experienced California injury lawyer.