Asbestos and Premises Liability
Landlords are required by law to disclose information about their properties that may harm their tenants. Older buildings may have health hazards like lead-based paint and asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate that builders used in flooring, roofing, and other home building materials because of its natural flame-retardant capabilities. The U.S. has since banned its use for commercial and residential applications because of its link to cancer. Older homes, however, may still contain asbestos, posing a health risk to families.
WHAT IS PREMISES LIABILITY?
Premises liability refers to a broad area of personal injury law that stipulates that a party, like a landlord, is responsible for the actions (or inactions, in the case of asbestos) that occur on their properties. A landlord is legally bound to disclose the presence of asbestos in a rental, but they are not immediately required by law to do anything about it. Asbestos regulations are federal statutes that OHSA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, enacted. In general, OHSA assumes that any dwelling built before 1981 contains asbestos. Landlords are required to test for asbestos if they employ 10 or more people or they hire independent contractors to complete home repairs. The only exception to testing is if they complete absolutely all repairs on their own. Property owners must either disclose knowledge of asbestos to their tenants or explain that they have no knowledge of asbestos in their building. They are only required to fix it if the asbestos is not properly contained. Much like lead-based paint, asbestos only poses a threat to health when it becomes airborne. If an inspection reveals a risk of airborne asbestos because of property deterioration, a landlord is required to inform tenants of activities, like construction, that may disturb it.
WHAT IF I AM LIVING IN A PROPERTY THAT CONTAINS AIRBORNE ASBESTOS?
If an inspection reveals the presence of asbestos, you have a few legal options. You cannot necessarily force a landlord to fix it, but you can legally withhold rent until repairs are made to make your dwelling safe. This is known as a “warranty of habitability” rule, which is an implied concept that states that you the right to live in a safe home. If a landlord refuses to take action, you have the option of either breaking your lease without recourse or living in a potentially dangerous home rent-free.
PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS
Premise liability claims operate on the assumption that landlords and other property owners should keep their property safe for renters or other visitors. If there is an issue with asbestos or another danger, the landlord should warn tenants of the situation. Failure to warn tenants constitutes negligence. If a property owner fails to keep up with regular inspections, not knowing asbestos exists is not a valid excuse for being ignorant of its presence. Pennsylvania law stipulates that landlords’ responsibilities extend beyond their tenants—even to independent contractors who perform work on their properties. In other words, if contractors performing repairs on a home become ill due to exposure to asbestos, they may be eligible for a personal injury claim.
FINDING A PERSONAL INJURY FIRM TO REPRESENT YOUR RIGHTS
Under Pennsylvania law, you have two years from the onset of symptoms to file a personal injury claim from exposure to asbestos. If your landlord failed to follow appropriate procedures, the amount of damages you can pursue is high. A settlement can help you with medical costs and compensate your loved ones for any emotional suffering. If you suspect you have been exposed to asbestos as a result of your landlord’s negligence, contact us on (215) 567-7600 at Hill & Associates Philadelphia office for a free case evaluation. A member of our team will review the specifics of your case and help you decide on the next steps. To take advantage of our risk-free consultation, contact us today.