Landlord could be liable for rental’s condition
DEAR LAWYER MARK: I live in Ironton and I have a question for you–my landlord won’t do anything to fix my apartment and I have asked him over and over again.
I have lived in this apartment for 10 months. My 3-year-old daughter has lead poisoning, which causes brain damage. I love my kids more than anything in the world, and I do lucky to pay my bills and can’t afford to fix this myself. Is there anything I can do to get him to fix it?
— Loving Daddy
DEAR LOVING DADDY: Lead poisoning is a serious health risk for children. They typically are exposed to this type of poisoning by eating paint chips that contain lead (it supposedly tastes like licorice). It is estimated that more than 80 percent of homes built before 1980 contain lead-based paint.
You are right to be concerned about the health risks to your daughter.
There are several options available to you. First of all, you may terminate the lease. Your landlord has a duty to comply with all applicable building, housing, health, and safety codes.
If there is lead-based paint in your apartment that is chipping off, then your landlord has a duty to repair it. If you have notified him of this problem, as you say you have, and he has failed to fix it, you may terminate the lease and not be required to pay rent.
However, you must first provide the landlord with written notice that you believe he has violated health or safety codes and provide him a reasonable time to remedy the condition.
I would advise you to send him a letter by certified mail stating the problem and asking him to fix it.
In addition, I would make a log of every contact you have with your landlord concerning the condition of the apartment.
In addition to terminating your lease, you may have a cause of action against your landlord for negligence if you can show that the paint chipping was the result of long-term neglect or violation of a housing code.
In addition, you would have to prove that the landlord knew of the lead-based paint and his refusal to fix it was the legal cause of your daughter’s lead-poisoning.
There is at least one appellate court case in Ohio where a landlord has been held liable for lead-based paint violations.
In the case of Harris v. Tigner, the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals held that a landlord was responsible for lead poisoning of a tenant’s daughter. In that case, the child was twice hospitalized due to the poisoning.
As in every case, I recommend that you speak with an attorney who may further discuss with you your options and the particular facts of your case. To learn how to protect your child from lead poisoning, you may contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-LEAD-FYI.
Thought for the Week: By asking for the impossible, we obtain the possible. — Italian Proverb
It’s the Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.