According to New York state law, in every oral or written rental agreement for rental property, there is an implied warranty of habitability.1 This means the landlord has a duty to maintain the property for the tenants so that it is not “dangerous, hazardous, or detrimental to their life, health or safety.”
When landlords negligently breach their duty, and a tenant is injured because of a dangerous condition on the property, the tenant can sue the landlord for compensation for the injury. There are some specific duties New York landlords owe to their tenants.
Duties Landlords Owe to Their Tenants
Some legal requirements of landlords under New York law include, but are not limited to:
- Providing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all one and two-family home units as well as in apartment buildings.2
- Maintaining the plumbing, heating, and electrical systems in good working order.
- Maintaining common areas of an apartment building free from unsafe conditions.
- Maintaining the property free of vermin, like cockroaches, mice, rats, and other insects and bugs.
- Keeping the premises free of disease mold.
- Making sure no lead paint has been used anywhere in the property.
- Keeping fire escapes in working order.
- Provide adequate lighting in common areas, hallways and walkways to prevent injuries and protect tenants from criminal harm.3
The caveat is that tenants must give their landlords notice of these problems in order to give them an opportunity to repair the condition. If landlords are negligent and breach their duty to their tenant of providing a safe environment, and a tenant is injured as a result, the tenant may file a lawsuit against the landlord in an attempt to receive compensation for the tenant’s damages.
Proving a Landlord is Liable for an Injury to a Tenant
Landlords are liable for an injury suffered by a tenant when the injury was a direct result of the landlord’s negligence. There may be many reasons to sue your landlord for negligence, but there are certain elements tenants must prove in order to prevail on their damages claims and win a lawsuit against their landlord for negligence. To bring a successful personal injury claim against a landlord the following elements must be proven:
1. The landlord had a duty to maintain the premises where the accident occurred. If a tenant trips on flooring that was negligently installed, the landlord may be liable. If the trip is over a decorative area rug the tenants themselves have placed on the floor, the landlord will not be liable.
2. The landlord knew of the dangerous condition but failed to fix it. In order to be held liable for the injury, the landlord must have had notice of the dangerous condition and a reasonable amount of time to fix it. For example, if the tenant is hit in the head by a tree branch falling through a hole in the roof just moments after the hole was made due to a gust of wind, the owner will not be liable. There was not the time for the landlord to make a repair even if he or she had been notified of the hole in the roof just seconds after it had occurred.On the other hand, if the landlord had noticed that the wind had blown a hole in the roof, the landlord had a duty to repair it as soon as possible. If the tenant was hit in the head with a falling branch a few days later, the landlord would be liable for injuries that the tenant sustained due to the hole in the roof that had not been repaired.
3. Fixing the dangerous condition would not have been unduly expensive or time-consuming. In the example of the hole in the roof, although likely not an inexpensive fix, it is a reasonable repair that must be done in order for the rental property to be habitable. The landlord must repair it as soon as he or she receives notice that it needs repair.
4. The landlord’s failure to maintain the premises in a safe condition was the direct cause of the injury. The falling branch would not have hit the tenant in the head if the landlord had repaired the unsafe condition of a hole in the roof. So, the landlord’s failure was a direct cause of the injury. But for the hole in the roof, the branch would not have fallen through and hit the tenant in the head.
5. The tenant suffered damages as a result of the owner’s breach of the duty to maintain the premises in good repair. If the owner had repaired the dangerous condition, the tenant would not have been hit in the head with the falling tree branch, and would not have incurred medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other damages.4
Bringing a Lawsuit Against Landlord for Negligence
If you have questions about filing a personal injury claim against a landlord, we invite you to speak with one of our skilled premises liability lawyers at Raphaelson & Levine, personal injury law firm. We provide a voice to tenants injured due to landlord negligence, including a recent claim we successfully brought against a landlord who had boarded up the fire escape causing our clients to sustain smoke inhalation injuries when a fire broke out on their second-floor family residence.
For over thirty years our attorneys have been working on behalf of those who have been negligently injured, including tenants who have been harmed by the actions of their landlord. We understand the problems of those who have been hurt and the frustration that can occur with the complicated legal process.
New York law establishes a deadline date upon which you must bring your claim for damages. After that date, you can no longer file a lawsuit no matter how seriously you were injured, which is why it is important to speak to understand your rights as soon as possible following an accident.
If you have questions regarding can a tenant sue a landlord for injury, or have reasons to sue your landlord for negligence contact us online or call 212-268-3222 to request a free lawyer consultation.