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Were your injuries caused by your landlord's negligence?

If you rent an apartment in New Jersey, you will likely expect your landlord to ensure safe surroundings. In fact, it is a property owner's responsibility to keep tenants happy and to prevent dangerous conditions that might cause injuries. He or she must follow the safety and health codes of the state and the city, and perform regular maintenance.

Maintaining a safe rental property is an ongoing responsibility. Weekly inspections are essential to identify developing hazards, and certain aspects need monthly checks. Your landlord must post warning signs at dangerous areas and arrange for prompt repairs.

Areas that could be hazardous

There are specific checks that you can expect your landlord to schedule in a maintenance program. If the following areas are always in good repair, you and your family will likely not be at risk of suffering injuries:

  • Fire safety: Where there are electricity and gas, there will always be a fire risk. For that reason, devices to detect smoke and carbon monoxide are essential in all apartments and the facility's common areas and mechanical rooms. The batteries or electricity supply to these detectors will need monthly checking to ensure they will provide the necessary alarm in the event of a fire or a gas leak.
  • Fire escape: Not all buildings have external fire escapes, but if yours does, your landlord must verify its safety. It must be free of rust and securely attached to the structure. The ladder must extend without problems, and windows that provide access to the fire escape must open easily. However, the property owner must ensure that those windows have correctly working locks to prevent entry by intruders via the fire escape.
  • Access and exit routes: While it is your landlord's responsibility to provide easy access and exit routes for all tenants, you will have to avoid blocking access to a door or window by placing a table, dresser or desk in front it. You might have to allow your landlord to enter your apartment occasionally to check on these safety issues. He or she must also ensure that garbage bags do not block the exit from the building's common area.
  • Secure locks: All locks, handles and hinges on doors and windows must be secure, and maintained properly. Doors must also have properly working deadbolts for extra security. If unauthorized access to your apartment causes harm to you or a member of your family, your landlord may be liable.
  • Banisters and window guards: Insecure banisters on stairs can lead to falls with severe consequences. Laws may require the installation of window guards to upper floors to prevent children falling from windows.
  • Common area lights: Proper lighting on stairways, common areas and parking lots is vital, not only to avoid slip-and-fall accidents but also to protect tenants against attackers or robbers.
  • Heating: Your landlord must ensure the proper functioning of the furnace or boiler to provide heat throughout the winter.

Premises liability

If negligent maintenance at your apartment complex causes harm or injury to you or a member of your family, you could have grounds to file a premises liability lawsuit against your landlord. Proving negligence might be challenging, and most victims of such injuries seek the support and guidance of experienced legal counsel to pursue recovery of financial and other damages on their behalves.

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