Is Your Landlord Guilty of Negligence?

Landlords have a duty to their tenants to maintain rental properties to state and local standards of habitability. Failure to do so can lead to serious fines and penalties. If you feel as if your landlord has neglected his or her duty, you may wish to file a legal complaint. Before you do so, however, make sure you're in the right.

Request for Timely Repairs

Before you can file a cause of action, you must notify your landlord, in writing, of the issue and give him or her adequate time to identify the problem and make the repair. "Adequate time" varies. For instance, if the issue presents a health hazard, such as black mold, the landlord must make the repair immediately. However, if the issue does not threaten the tenant's health, the landlord generally has within 30 days to act.

When the Landlord Doesn’t Act

If, after notifying your landlord in writing and making multiple attempts at contact, and he or she has yet to make the repair, it may be time to seek legal recourse. The lawyer may review the information of your case, such as the extent and duration of the neglect and the severity of its effect on your health and safety and advise you on the best course of action. This may entail filing a lawsuit in small claims court.

Determining a Cause of Action

If you are injured and decide to sue, you need to determine a cause of action. It shows that the landlord's neglect not only caused damage to the property but that it also caused harm to you as well. Causes of action are a breach of habitability and may include broken door locks, defunct furnace in cold weather, or no sufficient hot and cold running water. An injury lawyer should review your case before filing legal action.

Holding the Landlord Accountable

If you can successfully show that your landlord's actions or inactions were negligent and caused you harm, the courts may hold him or her accountable for lost property, injuries, and even emotional damage. Your landlord may also be responsible for your relocation costs. In addition to reparations, the small claims court may fine and sentence the landlord to jail time.