According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 44.1 million households are renters, and 37% of renters live in apartments. Given the great number of Americans who live in apartments, it’s vital that these individuals who call apartments their home remain safe.
To that end, apartment managers have a legal obligation to tenants and visitors to keep them safe on the property. This involves identifying and mitigating hazards on the property. We discuss two such hazards--aggressive dogs and carbon monoxide poisoning--below.
Two Major Hazards: Aggressive Dogs and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Different hazards cause different injuries--some more serious than others. Two major hazards present at apartment complexes include aggressive dogs and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Many apartment renters own dogs. In fact, as the Los Angeles Times reports, more than 70% of apartment renters report owning pets, with cats and dogs as the most popular types. However, the great quantity of pets at apartment complexes does not mean apartment complexes are always safe.
Aggressive dogs pose a significant threat to adults, children, and other pets on the premises. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that over 4 million people each year are attacked by dogs. Of these, nearly half are children under the age of nine.
These injuries can have severe consequences, including:
- Permanent nerve damage
- Bone fractures
- Wrongful death
Certain breeds of dogs are more dangerous than others. In an analysis conducted by the CDC, the greatest number of fatal dog attacks involved Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. While this does not mean every Pit Bull, Rottweiler, or German Shepherd will be aggressive, it does mean that if a dog bite were to occur, there is a good chance that it may involve one of these breeds.
Dog owners have some responsibility to prevent dog bites. In California, “strict liability” dog bite laws apply. This means an owner cannot escape liability for a dog bite by claiming they had no idea their dog was aggressive. This is because it is the dog owner’s responsibility to be aware of any aggressive behaviors in their pet that may indicate the dog could bite someone in the future. Additionally, dog owners must take adequate measures to prevent the bite from occurring in the first place, either by using a leash when required and keeping their pet confined to their own unit.
However, apartment managers can be held liable for dog bites as well. One way apartment managers can prevent dog bites from happening on their premises is to implement breed restrictions. While this is not a foolproof method, it can reduce the likelihood of a dog bite if aggressive breeds are not allowed on the premises.
Another way that apartment managers can prevent dog bites is to meet the dogs when their owners are applying to live on the property. The apartment manager could also call the applicant’s references to ensure the dog has not had issues with other tenants in the past. Apartment managers must also take complaints about dogs’ behavior seriously and discuss the matter with the dog’s owner.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” because it is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill humans upon excessive inhalation. Carbon monoxide is prevalent in the home, as it is emitted from various appliances and equipment, including:
- Oil and gas heaters
- Gas stoves
- Charcoal and gas grills
Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous when it accumulates in a confined area and cannot escape through windows or vents.
Apartment managers must do their part to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. The first step toward doing so is to install carbon monoxide detectors in every unit and ensure they function properly. This is required by law.
Second, apartment managers should address any faulty equipment that emits carbon monoxide as soon as possible.
Third, it may be helpful to hang posters in common areas that illustrate the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and explain how to contact the landlord in the event of a faulty carbon monoxide detector.
What Duty Do Apartment Managers Owe to Tenants and Visitors?
The aforementioned measures are only two examples of the general duty of care that apartment managers legally owe to tenants and visitors.
Premises liability laws require property owners to ensure their premises are safe and that hazards are identified and mitigated quickly. The failure to do so may make the apartment manager liable for any injuries that result from this negligence.
In order to prove negligence in a premises liability claim, you must demonstrate the following:
- The apartment manager had a clear, legal duty to inspect, examine, and maintain the premises in a reasonable condition.
- The apartment manager failed to uphold the duty of care.
- You sustained an injury.
- The breach of duty of care caused your injury.
Injured on a Dangerous Property? Contact Us Today
Premises liability laws are complicated and require the guidance of a seasoned legal professional. At Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP, our San Jose personal injury attorneys are well-versed in cases like these and we can help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Call Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP at (800) 900-0863 to schedule a free consultation.