FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-05-03
Tenants living in apartment buildings and high-rise condominiums in New York are protected by several state and local New York City laws. From regulations pertaining to rent to a duty to maintain living environments that are safe and in good repair, New York landlords have a number of responsibilities to their tenants. And when these responsibilities are not properly met, landlords find themselves in court.
While housing court is the more common venue, it is not uncommon for landlords to find themselves being sued for injuries caused by negligent maintenance.
Suing NY Landlords for Injuries
Apartment building owners and landlords are responsible for keeping their buildings safe. Negligent maintenance can occur in any number of ways. Often, stories of such negligence involve falls down broken stairways and slips on icy sidewalks that were not cleared. But there is more to apartment building negligence than slip-and-fall accidents.
Landlords have a duty to:
- Inspect apartments where children live for lead paint hazards and to repair them
- Install approved smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas
- Take precautions to protect tenants from assault such as installing proper door locks, two-way intercom systems, mirrors in elevators, door peepholes and adequate lighting in entrances and along walkways
- Install window guards in apartments with children under 10
When landlords fail to properly maintain the premises with working lights, smoke detectors and other necessary repairs and an injury occurs, tenants can hold their landlords responsible for their injuries.
Recent Toxic Mold Lawsuit Against Landlord Could Be a Landmark Case
A recent decision by an appeals court in New York provides an example of one such case against a landlord, although with perhaps a bit of a unique twist, as the case involves toxic mold. Typically, lawsuits based on toxic mold have not been treated very well by the courts because there is considerable controversy as to whether mold can be proven to be toxic.
But if the case proceeds and proves to be successful, it may have huge implications for tenants seeking to sue their landlords for issues related to toxic mold.
A New York apartment dweller brought a case against the landlords of a building in which she used to live because of physical ailments such as dizziness, rashes and respiratory problems that she suffered after being exposed to mold in her apartment during a six-year period. The mold, discovered underneath the floorboards of the apartment, was believed to have been caused by old water damage.
The trial court dismissed the case, unconvinced that the mold was “toxic” and that her respiratory problems were actually caused by exposure. But on appeal from the dismissal, the appellate court examined information from a medical expert and a number of scientific studies that suggested that the mold in the apartment did, in fact, create the health effects from which the tenant suffered. Finding the testimony reliable, the court accepted this evidence and allowed the lawsuit to go forward.
While it is difficult to exactly determine this ruling’s impact, as the case has not yet been tried, it certainly seems to shift power to those who have suffered from exposure to toxic mold and who may decide to bring lawsuits as a result. Given the millions of people living in New York and the Bronx alone, this could lead to many other lawsuits related to toxic mold exposure.
If you are a New York tenant who has been harmed by toxic mold or lead paint or in an accident in an apartment building, talk to an experienced NY personal injury attorney to learn about your rights.