When fires injure or kill Nevadans because of negligent maintenance or repairs, the landlords may be liable for damages. While landlords are normally not responsible for a tenant’s personal property losses, they may be liable if fires are caused by faulty wiring or malfunctioning appliances. They may also hold liability if they have failed to install working smoke detectors in the units. When tenants rent homes, there is an implied warranty of habitability. Landlords must maintain their properties in good working order so that the homes are livable and safe.
Between Jan. 1, 2016 and Jan. 18, 2018, 39 people died in Nevada house fires. From 2007 to 2011, the National Fire Protection Association reports that an estimated 2,570 people were killed in the U.S. in fires and another 13,210 victims were injured each year. When fires are caused by tenants, the landlords will not be liable. However, when fires result because of landlord negligence, injured tenants or the families of those who were killed may be able to hold property owners and management companies liable to pay damages.
In Nevada, landlords are required by law to maintain their rental properties in habitable conditions. This includes the duty to provide heating units that conform to applicable housing codes and electrical wiring and outlets that are maintained in good working order and that meet codes. In addition, HVAC and other cooling units must be maintained in good working order. If a landlord knows or reasonably should know that there are wiring or other problems but fails to repair them, the landlord may be liable to pay damages if the dangerous conditions cause fires that injure or kill tenants or their guests.
Tenants who notice repair problems such as sparking outlets, malfunctioning heating or cooling units or cooking equipment that is not working properly should immediately notify their landlords in writing about the problems. If landlords fail to fix hazardous conditions, tenants may withhold rent or repair the problems themselves and deduct the amounts from their rent. Tenants should document their attempts to notify their landlords and save copies. This may serve as evidence that the landlords were aware of the problems but failed to repair them if a fire happens.
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