When Can I Sue My Landlord?

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Attorney Tom Giannotti is here to give an answer to the question: “Can I sue my landlord?” Learn what he has to say here…

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► Hi, I’m Tom Giannotti. I’m an attorney with Butler Khan. As personal injury lawyers, we often get asked this question. “Can I sue my landlord?” Of course, here we’re talking about personal injuries, we’re not talking about other kind of landlord-tenant disputes. But generally the answer to this question, of course as a lawyer is, “It depends,” but I want to do a little bit better than that. Obviously, if you’ve been injured at an apartment complex or some kind of rental property, please give us a call that we can more fully evaluate your case. There’s just too many variables, too many nuances in this area of the law to really accurately answer this question with more than, “It depends.” But I’m going to do my best to break down at least two.
► These are two main statutes behind me in the red text here. Official Code of Georgia, OCGA. These are the two statutes that govern landlords’ duties to tenants in the State of Georgia. The first is the statute requires landlords to keep the premises in repair. So if the tenant notifies the landlord of the need for a repair and the landlord fails to do that within a reasonable amount of time, and then the tenant is hurt as a result of whatever the condition is that needed repair, then the landlord can be liable for those injuries. This is a little different from the second statute, which is what I would just call a Georgia premises liability statute. This just says that when somebody, such as a tenant, is an invitee on the premises that the landlord or the property owner generally owes a duty of reasonable care to keep the premises reasonably safe.
► In the landlord-tenant context, that extends really only to the common areas of the property. That’s just because you can imagine once the landlord hands over the keys to that apartment to the tenant, they’re not going to go in and inspect the apartment anymore for unsafe conditions. Again, it’s a different matter if the tenant notifies, “Hey, this needs to be fixed,” but they’re not going to go through and walk through the apartment obviously like they would owe that duty in the common areas. The landlord does still owe that duty for common areas: parking lots, walkways, et cetera. That’s really the big difference between these two is again, the duty to inspect versus relying on the tenants to notify the landlord when there is a problem.
► But generally, the answer to this question, “When can I sue my landlord,” is when the landlord knew or should have known that there was a dangerous condition on the property, failed to correct that condition within a reasonable amount of time, and then the tenant is hurt as a result, or the tenant’s guest for that matter. Generally, this is shown in a few ways. We call this actual or constructive knowledge in the law. Actual just means that the landlord actually knew about this. For example, the tenant told the landlord about a problem, landlord didn’t fix the problem. Constructive is just essentially you should have known, the landlord should have known about this issue. Sometimes this could be a building code violation where an expert says this condition violates this specific building code. Other times it’s often shown by just the length of time that a dangerous condition was allowed to exist.

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