Property Structures in Disrepair
What is “Disrepair” Legally?
Property is considered to be in a state of “Disrepair” if it presents a threat of harm or danger to persons who enter the property, or to an adjoining land owner. Property can reach a state of disrepair through decay, dilapidation, neglect, failure to repair, or through faulty construction.
Some common examples of property in a state of disrepair include:
- Rotting, decaying, or damaged wood
- Rusted pipes
- Unstable foundations or uneven structures
- Broken windows, especially broken glass\
- Uneven or cracked sidewalks
- Walls or roofs that are subject to collapsing
- Toxic conditions such as mold or lead
- Any other conditions that may lead to injury
Is it a Violation of Law to leave Property in a State of Disrepair?
Yes- under negligence laws, property owners have a duty to ensure that the state of their property is such that it will not cause injury to another person or damage to another person’s property. Thus, a property owner can be held liable for negligence if they knowingly allow their property to exist in a state of disrepair.
While it is understandable that some portions of a person’s property may need repair, civil liability increases as the property becomes dangerous to others. Thus, even property that appears to be functioning properly may be in violation if it presents a danger of injury to other persons.
In addition, property that is knowingly left in a state of disrepair may result in a claim for nuisance. Nuisance may be found where a property owner is deprived of their right to use or enjoy their property. For example, if a wall has not been repaired and is threatening to fall on another person’s property, it may be regarded as a continuous nuisance, especially if it interferes with the other owner’s property use.
Does a Property owner have a Duty to fix Property that is in Disrepair?
In general, the property owner is required to repair any dangerous conditions that they know about and maintain the safety of their property.
In most jurisdictions, a property owner must know that the property is in a defective condition before they are held liable. That is, if the owner knew about a wall that is about to collapse, but did nothing about it, they may be held liable. However, if they did not know about the condition, it may be more difficult to prove negligence.
On the other hand, it is not an excuse or defense if the dangerous property conditions were the result of faulty construction. If the owner knew about the dangerous condition, they can still be held liable even if they did not cause the disrepair.
Property that is in disrepair may also affect the rights of landlords and tenants, as well as any leases that may exist between them. The laws governing landlords and tenants may vary widely by state- consult your local municipality rules or inquire with a lawyer for advice on the landlord/tenant rules of your area.
Do I Need a Lawyer for issues with Property in Disrepair?
Property that is left in disrepair can present safety hazards and may cause significant property damage if left unattended to. If you are facing a dispute over property in disrepair, you may wish to consult with a lawyer for advice. If you are a property owner, your attorney will be able to explain to you the scope and limitation of your duties as a landowner. Alternatively, if you have been injured, or if your property has been damaged due to dangerous disrepair conditions, you may be able to recover your losses in a court of law.
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Last Modified: 04-19-2011 02:39 PM PDT
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