There’s a disturbing trend developing in the Southeast: apartment complex fires.
Earlier this month, a two-alarm fire broke out in an apartment building in Midtown, Atlanta after an evening of winter weather, according to CBS 46. Birmingham Fire and Rescue has also had a busy January, responding to several fires of undetermined cause and extinguishing an apartment complex fire caused by a stove malfunction.
In December, 20 apartments in Nashville were destroyed in a fire that is still under investigation, according to The Tennessean. Another heavy fire caused by an oven malfunction in Memphis sent a firefighter to the hospital.
It’s no surprise that these fires all took place in apartment buildings. In buildings where the landlord controls the temperature, like in assisted or low-income housing, tenants often turn to alternative means of heating when they’re left shivering.
Sometimes, landlords do not comply with inspections required by law. Smoke detectors are not provided or maintained, and cheap appliances are installed and not monitored.
The worst part is, in a lot of these cases, tenants believe they were responsible for the fire even though oftentimes a landlord’s negligence was at the root of the problem.
Landlords get away with cutting costs simply because a lot of tenants aren’t aware of the rights they have as residents, especially in assisted housing.
Your Federal Rights as a Section 8 Tenant
Every renter has responsibilities, and landlords are quick to complain when they’re not met. But, private owners renting out low-income housing also have to follow a set of rules as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development which grant tenants certain rights.
You have the right to live in decent, safe, and sanitary housing. That means every landlord is required to make sure rental units meet health and safety codes. Repairs need to be made in a timely manner and your building’s management must have a quality maintenance program. Management agents and property owners are supposed to communicate any and all issues to residents, and are required to respond promptly to all valid resident complaints. Regular inspections should be conducted by the Public Housing Authority. These annual Housing Quality inspections check for 13 things, including that your home is free from environmental hazards such as lead-based paint, has adequate heating, and has smoke detectors (some states require tenants to maintain smoke detectors).
You have the right to written notice in advance for any nonemergency inspection or entry into your apartment.
You have the right to equal and fair treatment, as well as equal use of your building’s services and facilities. The Fair Housing Act bans discrimination based on race or skin color, birth country, gender, religion, language, children or disability.
You have the right to organize and participate in the decisions regarding the wellbeing of your building and home, without obstruction, harassment, or retaliation from the owners or management. You can meet without the landlord, hang up posters to inform other residents of their rights and meetings and voice your opinions about residential community affairs such as the condition or management of the property.
You have the right to reasonable accommodations if you have a disability. Your landlord must let you make changes to your residence at your own expense, and be flexible with other rules such as allowing for a service dog even if he or she has a “no pets” rule.
Were You Injured in a Fire?
When a landlord neglects his duties, he puts tenants at risk. If you’ve been injured as a result of a fire in your home, our experienced burn injury attorneys at Morgan & Morgan may be able to help.
Even if you feel you caused the fire, you may still have a case. Read more about how our burn injury attorneys can do for their clients or fill out our free and confidential case evaluation form to talk to us today.