Negligence, Landlord-tenant, Fire and Smoke Alarms, Smoke Detectors, Premises Liability, Manufactured Homes
We represented two families who lost their children due to smoke inhalation. Our clients lived in a rented trailer house (manufactured house) in a trailer park. When our clients moved in they informed the manager that the trailer house was missing smoke detectors/ smoke alarms. The manager came out and inspected but never came back to install or repair any of the smoke detectors. Shortly, thereafter, a slow smoldering fire developed that filled the trailer with smoke. None of the remaining smoke detectors went off.
Unbeknownst to my clients and most other tenants in the State of Texas, we have the Texas Property Code Chapter 92.001 that governs and controls the legal relationship and the responsibilities and duties of landlords and tenants. Chapter 92 requires a tenant to give written notice of a problem to their landlord. In most cases, this means the tenant has to:
- Give written notice of the problem, and
- If the landlord doesn’t fix the problem, the tenant has to give a second written notice; that the tenant is going to exercise their remedies under the property code if the landlord doesn’t comply with the request in seven (7) days.
Most tenants are not aware of the need to give a second written notice. The landlord can sit back and prey on tenants who are not aware of the Residential Tenancy Laws in Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code.
In this case, our clients did not give the second written notice. The defendant landlord was sure he was going to win the case because the second written notice had not been sent. We kept investigating and discovered that landlords have to install a smoke detector/ smoke alarm in the corridor outside of the two bedrooms at the end of the trailer where the children died even though the manufacturer put smoke detectors in the bedrooms. Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code requires the extra smoke detector if a trailer is going to be rented. The landlord failed to do this. The same laws that the landlord was using to shield itself eventually became the sword which caused the case to settle in my clients’ favor.
Landlord tenant laws are lurking out there just waiting to snare a tenant. Landlords have no duty to inform a tenant of the requirements of the law. This allows a landlord to sit back and prey on the weak, the vulnerable and the uninformed. A consultation with an attorney early on can help tenants in their disputes with a powerful landlord.
Most atttorneys are happy to provide free consultations.