Landlords' Responsibility for Toxic Gases in the Apartment

Share Full-screen

The presence of carbon monoxide, radon, and other toxic gases almost always puts the landlord in breach of their lease, unless they fix it quickly. Landlords will be liable for medical bills if they fail to fix the problem quickly. Some states also require carbon monoxide detectors and disclosures to tenants about carcinogenic materials before they move in.

Housing Code Violations

Local codes sometimes include detailed rules on hazardous conditions (like carbon monoxide), and landlords would be responsible for making these fixes in those jurisdictions. Tenants that don’t want to move out can usually report local housing violations to their local authorities for pressure to get the problem fixed. Landlords and tenants should check their local codes for the applicable rules, but a general overview is provided below. Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Most states require residential structures to have a carbon monoxide detector. A landlord is likely responsible for providing a carbon monoxide detector in a rental unit. A tenant may be responsible for notifying the landlord of an inoperable detector, testing the detector, and replacing its batteries. Radon - Some states require landlords to disclose to tenants the presence of radon or provide tenants with information about radon. Other Carcinogens - Some states require a landlord to disclose the existence of any known carcinogenic material to prospective tenants under certain circumstances.

Breaking the Lease

Tenants can generally break their lease if the apartment becomes dangerous. Under the "implied warranty of habitability," landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining safe apartments for their tenants. Except in Arkansas, it’s included in every lease automatically, even if the lease says the landlord is responsible. Generally, it requires that the apartment is safe and sanitary. Toxic gases are obviously unsafe, and therefore, the landlord hasn’t upheld their portion of the lease to provide a safe and “habitable” apartment to the tenant if toxic gases are present in the apartment. Similarly, the tenant is entitled to “quiet enjoyment” of their apartment in nearly every jurisdiction, meaning that the apartment is free of major nuisances. The right to “quiet enjoyment” does not mean the tenant is entitled to literal silence, but that nuisances don’t prevent them from reasonably enjoying the apartment. Even if the toxin is unknown, if the smell is severe and disturbs the normal enjoyment of the apartment, then the landlord has breached their end of the lease for failing to provide an apartment free of major nuisances. Tenants are free to break their lease if the apartment if the gas violates their right to “quiet enjoyment.”

Recovering Medical Expenses

Landlords are responsible for paying for the tenant’s medical expenses when they knew about the problem and failed to fix it in a reasonable time. Just as the victim of a car accident can sue a drunk driver for their injury, tenants can sue the landlord for injuries or health problems caused by their negligent actions. In particular, landlords will have to pay the victim’s damages if 1) the issue was known or should have been known by the landlord, 2) the landlord did not fix the problem in a reasonable time since they were notified, 3) the cost of the repair is reasonable, 4) and the landlord’s negligence caused foreseeable injuries. The key element in many of these cases is when the landlord was first notified about the problem. Tenants should notify the landlord and keep detailed documentation of the problem and notifications. Tenants can recover medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, destruction to personal property and more. Because the cost of such injuries can be very high (sometimes in the millions), landlords should consider holding insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Unknown Gases

Sometimes, tenants will be able to smell or see a gas but not necessarily be able to identify what the gas is. Since it could potentially cause severe health effects, tenants and landlords should treat the unknown gas as a toxin until they receive confirmation that it’s safe. Landlords may be fully liable for the harms caused by the gas if they are aware of an unknown gas and it turns out to cause health effects. Where the smell or visibility of a gas is severe, the tenant may be able to break the lease even if it doesn’t cause physical harm. See the paragraph on “quiet enjoyment” for more information.

Housing Code Violations


Local codes sometimes include detailed rules on hazardous conditions (like carbon monoxide), and landlords would be responsible for making these fixes in those jurisdictions. Tenants that don’t want to move out can usually report local housing violations to their local authorities for pressure to get the problem fixed. Landlords and tenants should check their local codes for the applicable rules, but a general overview is provided below.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors - Most states require residential structures to have a carbon monoxide detector. A landlord is likely responsible for providing a carbon monoxide detector in a rental unit. A tenant may be responsible for notifying the landlord of an inoperable detector, testing the detector, and replacing its batteries.

Radon - Some states require landlords to disclose to tenants the presence of radon or provide tenants with information about radon.

Other Carcinogens - Some states require a landlord to disclose the existence of any known carcinogenic material to prospective tenants under certain circumstances.

Breaking the Lease


Tenants can generally break their lease if the apartment becomes dangerous.

Under the "implied warranty of habitability," landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining safe apartments for their tenants. Except in Arkansas, it’s included in every lease automatically, even if the lease says the landlord is responsible. Generally, it requires that the apartment is safe and sanitary. Toxic gases are obviously unsafe, and therefore, the landlord hasn’t upheld their portion of the lease to provide a safe and “habitable” apartment to the tenant if toxic gases are present in the apartment.

Similarly, the tenant is entitled to “quiet enjoyment” of their apartment in nearly every jurisdiction, meaning that the apartment is free of major nuisances. The right to “quiet enjoyment” does not mean the tenant is entitled to literal silence, but that nuisances don’t prevent them from reasonably enjoying the apartment. Even if the toxin is unknown, if the smell is severe and disturbs the normal enjoyment of the apartment, then the landlord has breached their end of the lease for failing to provide an apartment free of major nuisances. Tenants are free to break their lease if the apartment if the gas violates their right to “quiet enjoyment.”

Recovering Medical Expenses


Landlords are responsible for paying for the tenant’s medical expenses when they knew about the problem and failed to fix it in a reasonable time.

Just as the victim of a car accident can sue a drunk driver for their injury, tenants can sue the landlord for injuries or health problems caused by their negligent actions. In particular, landlords will have to pay the victim’s damages if 1) the issue was known or should have been known by the landlord, 2) the landlord did not fix the problem in a reasonable time since they were notified, 3) the cost of the repair is reasonable, 4) and the landlord’s negligence caused foreseeable injuries. The key element in many of these cases is when the landlord was first notified about the problem. Tenants should notify the landlord and keep detailed documentation of the problem and notifications.

Tenants can recover medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, destruction to personal property and more. Because the cost of such injuries can be very high (sometimes in the millions), landlords should consider holding insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits.

Unknown Gases


Sometimes, tenants will be able to smell or see a gas but not necessarily be able to identify what the gas is. Since it could potentially cause severe health effects, tenants and landlords should treat the unknown gas as a toxin until they receive confirmation that it’s safe. Landlords may be fully liable for the harms caused by the gas if they are aware of an unknown gas and it turns out to cause health effects. Where the smell or visibility of a gas is severe, the tenant may be able to break the lease even if it doesn’t cause physical harm. See the paragraph on “quiet enjoyment” for more information.

Last Update : July 22, 2018 UTC

Comments discussing Toxic Gases

Ad
No entries found.