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PA Premises Liability Law - Who Is Responsible For Building Fires Resulting In Injuries In Philadelphia?

When renting apartments in Philadelphia or surrounding suburbs, tenants have certain legal rights and have reasonable expectations that the apartments they are renting are fit for human habitation.

Many times, tenants may be injured or hurt due to uninhabitable conditions or dangerous conditions in the apartments that should not have been in the apartments.  For example, if a fire broke out in an apartment building, and a tenant was injured because the smoke alarms in the building and/or apartment were not working properly, the tenant may have legal rights against the landlord.

The responsibility of making sure smoke alarms in Philadelphia apartments and apartment building are in proper working order belongs to the property owner or landlord.

Related: Can my Philadelphia landlord be held liable for failing to repair or correct conditions that led to my injury?

On October 1, 2011, a law was passed which required property owners in Philadelphia who rent out apartments to obtain a "Certificate of Rental Suitability" at the beginning of every new tenancy.  In order to obtain a certificate, a landlord has to certify that the smoke detection equipment in the apartment is in good operating condition.

In order to obtain the Certificate, the property owner needs to confirm the following:

  • the property owner has a current annual Housing Inspection license;
  • the property is fit for human habitation;
  • fire/smoke detection equipment for the premises is in proper operating condition; and
  • the property will be maintained during the term of the lease in a condition fit for human habitation, and that fire/smoke detection equipment will be maintained as otherwise required by existing law.

In addition to the Certificate, the landlord must provide a written statement to the tenant certifying that the unit or apartment is in suitable condition to rent.  The statement must provide the following information:

  • the unit has working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors;
  • the operating systems and the property do not have health and safety defects; and
  • the landlord will continue to maintain the operating systems and condition of the property and throughout the tenancy.

Here is an example of how a landlord can be liable for injuries sustained by a tenant during a fire at a Philadelphia apartment building.

A tenant moves into an apartment in Philadelphia.  He receives the landlord's written statement certifying that the smoke detector in the apartment is in proper working condition.  Two weeks after moving in, the tenant notices that the smoke alarm is not working because he burned something on the stove while cooking and the alarm didn't go off.  He notifies the landlord who responds that he will take care of it.  A week goes by and the landlord still does not fix the alarm. 

Then, there is a fire in the building in the middle of the night.  The tenant does not know there is a fire in the building or in his apartment until it is too late.  He is fortunately able to escape from the fire, but suffers significant burn injuries throughout his body which will leave him permanently scarred. 

If the smoke detector was fixed prior to the fire, the tenant would have heard the smoke alarm and got out of his apartment before the fire got out of control in his apartment.

Help After Injuries From A Building Fire In Phildelphia, Pennsylvania

If you or a loved one was injured in a fire due to a landlord or property owner's negligence, call Daniel J. O'Brien, Esq. to explore your legal rights. FREE consultations.  877.944.8396

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