The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

Rental property owners have a duty to protect against fires

When a person decides to rent housing, they do so with the understanding that the landlord will bear significant responsibility in maintaining the property. After all, tenants are not the property owners. The unfortunate reality is that the rental property owners don’t always uphold their end of the bargain, which can have disastrous results.

Multiple Pennsylvania families are dealing with this realization in the worst way possible: An apartment complex erupted in a fire that claimed four lives. Since the incident took place last year, steps have been taken to file wrongful death suits on behalf of each of the victims.

According to reports, the blaze started on the third floor of the apartment complex, which was converted from a funeral home into a rental property. Unfortunately, the tenants were not able to escape in time, largely because there were not enough functioning smoke detectors in the building. In fact, one of the wrongful death claims indicates that none of the fire alarms on the third floor were working at the time of the blaze.

Based on information that has emerged since the apartment fire, it seems there’s a distinct possibility that this tragedy could have been prevented. If the property owners had followed basic safety codes by installing and maintaining a sufficient number of smoke detectors and fire alarms, the tenants may have been alerted with enough time to exit the building safely.

Acting as a landlord is not simply business opportunity -- there are a number of critical responsibilities. It's reasonable for renters to expect that their property includes simple safety features. Unfortunately, the property owners in this particular Pennsylvania case broke that trust and four people paid the ultimate price.

Source:, "Family sues landlords over Emmaus fire that killed four people," Sarah Cassi, April 23, 2014

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