Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas emitted from combustion. Many of your apartment tools or appliances, such as fireplaces or water heaters, may produce carbon monoxide. Exposure to this gas can lead to a range of symptoms, such as:
- Persistent headache
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Children are particularly vulnerable to carbon monoxide, and prolonged exposure can be fatal. This gas presents a particular hazard when people are sleeping or intoxicated.
If you rent an apartment and you or a loved one recently suffered the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be wondering if you can hold your landlord accountable. The circumstances vary from case to case, but the simple answer is: possibly. For additional information or to discuss the specifics of your case, consult a West Virginia carbon monoxide poisoning lawyer.
Carbon Monoxide and Premises Liability Claims
A claim for carbon monoxide poisoning would fall under the umbrella of premises liability law. Under these laws:
- The owner of a property (i.e. your landlord) has a responsibility to maintain and exercise reasonable care with regard to the property.
- If a property owner knew, or should have known, about a defective or dangerous condition on his or her property, but did nothing to rectify it, he or she commits negligence.
- A property owner may be liable for any damages you incur when his or her negligence directly leads to your injuries.
A property owner may commit negligence with regard to ownership of a property in several ways. In the case of carbon monoxide poisoning, these often result from lack of proper maintenance. Examples might include:
- Failure to clean a fireplace, causing smoke to come back into the household
- Failure to maintain or fix a faulty hot water heater
- Failure to maintain or fix a faulty boiler
- Failure to service or maintain a furnace
- Failure to maintain a gas oven or range
Landlord Tenant Laws
As late as the early 20th century, landlords were not responsible for the condition of a property once he or she rented it to a tenant. However, many states adopted stricter landlord tenancy laws that require a property owner to reasonably maintain the property for anyone who rents it.
The lease will be a valuable source of information if you incur any injury on your landlord’s property. Ultimately, this document should outline a landlord’s responsibility to maintain appliances and other aspects of the dwelling you rent. Municipalities may also create more specific regulations for landlords to follow, depending on the circumstances.
Your Duty as a Tenant
Liability in carbon monoxide poisoning can become less clear if a property owner “should have known” about a dangerous condition on a property. In some cases, liability should be fairly obvious – for example, we can reasonably assume that a 50-year old boiler that hasn’t had service in 20 years may present a risk. In others, however, what a property owner “should know” is less clear-cut. Tenants have a responsibility to tell landlords about any defective condition on the premises, especially since a landlord cannot enter without express permission or advance notice.
If you notice any signs of disrepair to a combusting appliance such as a fireplace, boiler, furnace, clothes dryer, or oven, tell your landlord as soon as possible. Once he or she learns of a defect, he or she has an obligation to fix it in line with the terms of the lease.
In the meantime, consider installing carbon monoxide detectors in your apartment if they’re not already installed. This simple step can alert you to the presence of odorless gas that could seriously hurt your family. If you alerted your landlord to a defective condition on your property and it led to carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be able to file a claim under premises liability laws so speak with a West Virginia premises liability attorney to learn more.