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Tenant Safety and Landlord Liability

for-rent-sign against brick building

Many renters are concerned about their safety as they look for a new home. Older apartments may be covered in lead-based paint or use insulation containing asbestos. In addition, criminal activity may be common in some neighborhoods. While landlords are often responsible for ensuring the safety of their rental properties, there are certain activities renters can do to protect themselves.

Safety and Criminal Activity

Ensuring the rental property is free from criminal activity is usually the landlord's responsibility. Many local laws require that each apartment has a deadbolt and pin lock in the door handle. This ensures a renter is able to adequately secure their living space. Depending on the crime statistics of the surrounding area, landlords may want to take other security measures like installing exterior lights or trimming tall plants to discourage criminal activity and increase visibility.

Landlords must also keep their buildings free of illegal activity, such as drug dealing. Most leases have a provision prohibiting any sort of illegal activity within the rental units. If the landlord discovers illegal activity they may evict the renter on that basis alone.

Safety and Dangerous Buildings

The other major threat to tenant safety may be the building itself. Older buildings might not conform to building codes and current safety codes. They may also contain lead or other dangerous materials. Generally, many cities and states require landlords to do the following:

  •  Disclose environmental toxins and other dangerous conditions to renters before they sign the rental agreement
  •  Install certain kinds of fire exits or smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in each unit 

In addition, landlords are typically required to make reasonable repairs to improve building safety. They are, however, not required to do major renovations before leasing a property.

What Tenants Can Do

Even though it is mainly the landlord's duty to make sure the apartment building is safe, there are some common-sense things you can do to protect yourself. 

  • Learn about the local crime statistics. With this information, you can decide whether the property owner took enough safety measures.
  • View the rental in person. During the viewing, you should ask questions about when the apartment was built and what material was used. It is also a good idea to look at the condition of the smoke detectors, electrical sockets, and ventilation systems.
  • Get renters' insurance. Rental insurance plans vary but are usually affordable and will compensate tenants in the event someone steals their property, or their property is damaged.
  • Make your apartment safe. Be sure to keep all doors and windows locked and valuables out of sight. 

For more information, see FindLaw's Tenant Rights section and state by state resources.

Learn More About Tenant Safety and Landlord Liability From a Lawyer

Every renter has the right to live in a safe home, free from health hazards and dangerous criminal activity. If you believe your landlord has failed in their duty to provide a safe place to live, you might want to explore your legal options. A local landlord-tenant attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid claim.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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