A homeowner can do many things to protect the home and its occupants. Installing smoke detectors, alarm systems and other safety devices is one step, and keeping the home and premises free from hazards is another. However, if you live in an apartment, you may not have as much control over your own safety.
In a single year, about 95,000 apartment fires devastated lives and families in Texas and across the country. Hundreds died and thousands suffered injuries. The tenants in these apartments were at the mercy of their landlords to put in place fire prevention measures and provide a home that was as safe as reasonably possible. In many cases, the landlord failed in that responsibility.
The duties of a landlord
As an apartment dweller, you must trust in your landlord. Your lease places certain responsibilities on you to avoid actions that may result in a fire. For example, your lease may prohibit you from using a grill on your balcony or leaving your belongings in the hallway to block the fire extinguisher. Your landlord may restrict cigarette smoking in the building since that is the number one cause of fires in residences.
However, your landlord also has serious responsibilities, too, including the following:
- Installing and regularly inspecting a fire suppression system
- Inspecting and testing fire alarm systems frequently, including smoke detectors in each unit
- Servicing and replacing fire extinguishers as needed
- Keeping tall objects away from sprinkler systems
- Establishing a second path of escape from each unit, and ensuring that egress is accessible and free from obstacles
One important obligation your landlord has is to listen and respond to any concerns or complaints you have about safety hazards in your building. In fact, a proactive landlord will come to you from time to time with reminders about cooking safety and other steps you can take to prevent a fire in your unit. The building owner may also conduct fire drills so that all residents know the safest and fastest way to evacuate the building in the event a fire occurs.
Whenever you approach your landlord with a safety concern, it is good to do so in writing so you have a record of your correspondence. This may come in handy if you or a family member face the tragic consequences of an apartment fire related to the negligence of your landlord. Fire and smoke injuries can be life-altering, and you have the right to seek compensation and justice for your suffering. After an apartment fire, speak with an attorney concerning your rights.