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Landlord liable?

If a tenant is damaged by a landlord's failure to maintain, can the landlord be held liae

Is a landlord liable for damages to tenants because of a fire?

In 2015, Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a landlord could be held liable for damages suffered by tenants as a result of a fire. The case out of Beachwood Ohio is called Sivit v. Village Green of Beachwood, L.P. The only downside of the decision is that punative damages awarded by the Court of Appeals were found to be capped at just twice the compensatory damages.
The facts of the case show that owner and landlord at Village Green apartments had a fire in 2004. That fire was caused by structural defects in the wiring. After another fire in 2007, some of the tenant who were displaced alleged that owner and management company were liable for their losses because they knew about the problem and failed to correct it.
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What if damage occurs to a guest of a tenant?
The Supreme Court of Ohio decision which holds landlords responsible to maintain common areas safe and sanitary FOR TENANTS GUESTS seems obvious on the face. Afterall, if common areas are safe for tenants they are also safe for guests. The fact that the SC was unambitious in this decision is a sign that the conclusion was obvious. But the fact that the SC ruled that guests have rights under this portion of the OLLTL holds a greater significance for the future. Here's the Dispatch article and I'm attaching a copy of the "slip" decision of the court at the bottom of this page.

The Columbus Dispatch • Wednesday February 12, 2014 2:13 PM
Ohio landlords have the same obligation to their tenants’ guests as they do to the tenants themselves to keep their premises safe and sanitary, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today. Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Paul E. Pfeifer said, “a landlord owes to a tenant’s guest the same duty that the landlord owes a tenant. Thus, a landlord owes a tenant, and therefore the tenant’s guest, the duty to “[k]eep all common areas of the premises in a safe and sanitary condition” as required by Ohio law.

Landlord liable for damages?
Maybe, if landlord knows of a problem and fails to correct it resulting in damages to the tenant. Two key cases

Carlos Sivit, et al. v. Village Green of Beachwood, L.P., et al. http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Clerk/ecms/resultsbycasenumber.asp?year=2013&number=0586
Mann v. Northwood http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/docs/pdf/0/2014/2014-Ohio-455.pdf

 The basics
  • landlord knows there is a problem and fails to correct the problem
  • Problem (or defect) causes damages to a tenant
  • tenant can sue to recover actual and punative damages within limits
    What's going on?
    • Can tenant show that landlord had actual knowledge of a problem or defect.  Examples:  housing inspection report, previous requests for repair.
    • Can tenant document actual damages? bills for costs incurred by tenant because of the damage
    Other considerations
    • was damage to tenant in whole or in part due to a circumstance outside the landlord's control, eg.  weather conditions?
    • was the damage suffered by a group who could potentially share the costs of an attorney or mount a class action?