Landlords owe a duty of care to their tenants. Understanding what that means and steps to take if there are safety issues is about more than just protecting one's rights as a renter in Peachtree City. Failing to make repairs or follow up on safety requests could lead to a serious injury because of landlord’s negligence. In such cases, tenants may take legal action by filing a premises liability claim.
What does duty of care mean for a landlord?
It is a landlord's obligation to ensure his or her property is free of hazardous or dangerous conditions. To ensure this, the landlord should perform periodic inspections. This includes before renting to a tenant.
If the landlord – or someone employed by the landlord (e.g. maintenance worker) – discovers an unsafe situation like smoke detectors that do not work, it is the landlord's duty to fix them.
Other times it is the tenant who discovers a safety issue and brings it to the landlord's attention. Again, it's the landlord's duty to address it in a reasonable amount of time. Whether a reasonable period of time is a few hours or days depends on the condition.
Can I stop paying rent if the landlord doesn’t make repairs?
No. You must keep paying rent per the terms of your lease, even if the landlord is not making repairs. Some states allow tenants to withhold rent in these cases, but Georgia is not one of them.
If you stop paying rent, you could face legal challenges from the landlord. Instead, keep making your rent payments and consider other options to remedy the problem.
Should I just fix the problem myself?
You may fix the problem yourself if your landlord fails to respond in a reasonable period of time. As noted above, a ‘reasonable period of time’ will depend on the severity of the hazard and any danger it causes occupants.
When searching for contractors, make sure they are licensed and qualified to perform the work. Do not make any improvements to the property; only make the required repairs.
Save all receipts and contracts to show how much the repair cost. Through a rule called repair and deduct, you may deduct your next rent payment by the amount you spent on the repair. Tell your landlord ahead of time that you plan to use this rule, and send copies of the receipts and repair bills.
Can I move out if I have a negligent landlord?
Moving out of a unit because the landlord refuses to make repairs is called a constructive eviction. You may be able to exercise this option if the landlord failed to make repairs and as a result the unit is unfit to live in and ordinary repairs cannot restore the unit to make it fit to live.
If the unrepaired condition only makes the unit uncomfortable or unsightly, the tenant may not exercise this option. Tenants may move out of the unit and stop paying rent under these circumstances.
What if I am injured because of the landlord’s negligence?
Contact an attorney if you suffer an injury as a result of unsanitary or unsafe premises. To file a claim, you will need evidence that the landlord was negligent and failed to fix the problem. Evidence may include letters you sent informing the landlord of the problem. You also must have suffered serious injury because of the hazardous condition that the landlord failed to fix.
An attorney can determine if you have a case and if so, what types of damages you may seek, this may include:
- medical expenses;
- lost wages;
- pain and suffering;
- disability; and
- more depending on the circumstances.
Contact Jason R. Schultz in Peachtree City at 404-474-0804 to review your case and for help filing your claim.