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How does your apartment rate for habitability?

Apartment hunting in New Jersey can be lots of fun. Many people like to make a day of it, lining up several prospects in various locations and heading out with a loved one or best friend (as a second set of eyes and ears) to explore available options and create dreams and plans for the future. You might be one of the rare, lucky ones who score the perfect abode on the very first visit, or, as is more common, you may need to tour multiple residences before finding just the right one.

It's easy to let aesthetic value distract you when checking out a potential new living space. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time there, right? So, why not choose something that allows you to exercise your creative flare or provides the perfect view for working from home? Above and beyond quaint features, optimum location or the high-tech, eclectic feel you've been looking for, however, another important issue is apartment safety.

Beware the red flags

Just as you will be responsible for certain things once you sign a rental agreement, a prospective landlord is also obligated and legally bound in various ways. Providing a safe environment for you and all tenants is high on the list. Often, you can spot potential problems when you're seeing an apartment for the first time. The following issues may alert you to safety hazards:

· Locks on doors and windows: If even one lock on a door or window is malfunctioning, you are being placed in harm's way. This is obviously something that the property manager should rectify before you sign a lease.

· Strange odors: Although your possible new home may look pristine and inviting, if you smell mildew or gas during your tour, it's a significant sign of a safety hazard.

· Working smoke detectors: There are laws governing landlords' obligations to equip all residences and building areas with appropriate smoke alarms. It is always wise to make sure such devices are in working order before moving into an apartment.

· Leaks: A minor drip in a kitchen faucet is one thing; however, signs of water damage on a ceiling are quite another as this may signify a risk of sudden ceiling collapse where serious injuries could occur.

In addition to these issues, your landlord is also responsible to make sure all electrical appliances and wiring are well-maintained and working according to safety codes. There can also be problems outside your immediate living surroundings, such as in hallways, stairwells or on the grounds surrounding your apartment building.

What happens if you're injured?

Even if you closely inspect a new apartment, something might happen later down the line after you've already signed your rental agreement. For instance, what if you come home one night and trip on debris left lying on the stairs from a construction project going on in the building? If you suffer injury, your landlord may be liable for any expenses you face associated with the incident.

It's understandable for you to feel frustrated and upset if you sprain your ankle, break your arm, or suffer severe neck or back pain in a situation that proper maintenance could likely have prevented. If your landlord's negligence caused you to lose income because you had to take off work during recovery or be faced with a mound of medical bills you were completely unprepared to meet, you can seek justice by filing a personal injury claim in a civil court.

An experienced injury attorney can investigate your claim and help you identify all possible sources of liability, as well as determine what types of damages may be listed as you seek restitution for the suffering you've endured.

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