Under Pennsylvania law, landlords may be liable for fires which cause injury to tenants and guests, even if those fires are caused by third party criminal activity.
In situations where a third party criminal causes a fire, if the landlord either created a situation resulting in access by criminals, such as a faulty door or poor lighting, or the landlord knew of the potential for such access, the landlord may face liability.
It is important to note, however, that landlords are not the only party who may be sued, especially in fires resulting in catastrophic injuries. Other potential defendants may include:
- property management companies,
- maintenance companies/contractors, and
- fire alarm/smoke detector manufacturers.
In general, landlords have a duty to provide working fire alarms. In fact, many local municipalities require landlords to provide them.
Philadelphia landlords are required to meet various guidelines for one and two family dwellings, such as:
- Provide battery-powered smoke detectors. Interconnection is not required between the several detectors in a dwelling unit. A permit is not required.
- In new one- and two-family dwellings (newly-built or newly-established in an existing building), the detectors are required to be powered by the primary power source in the building. The power must be supplied from an unswitched portion of the branch circuit or from a dedicated branch circuit. Interconnection of the several detectors installed in new dwellings is required such that the activation of one detector will activate all the alarms in the dwelling. An electrical permit is required.
- Smoke detectors must be installed in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms and on each story of the house, including basements. In new dwelling units, they are also required in the bedrooms.
- Detectors should be placed as close to the bedroom(s) as practicable without being activated by normal use of the kitchen.
- In split-level dwellings without doors between adjacent levels, a smoke detector is required on the upper level, so long as there is less than one full story between levels.
- Annual certification of detectors in one- and two-family dwellings is not required.
In Philadelphia, landlords are also required to meet other various requirements such as placement of fire extinguishers. For example, at least one fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 2-A:10-B:C is required in the public corridors or stairwells at each floor level of buildings without water sprinklers. In addition, in buildings of three stories or less with a single stairway, one fire extinguisher is required to be placed approximately equidistant from all dwelling units.
If a fire occurs in the building, the landlord may be liable for injury, if the landlord fails to perform its duties under local ordinance or Pennsylvania law. Failure to provide required fire alarms, fire extinguishers, etc. under local codes may be conclusive proof of negligence. Early, proper investigation is important to maximize recovery for the seriously injured tenant or guest.
If you’d like to have your case reviewed by our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania defective premises lawyers, call 215.925.4451. Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation.
*This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is important to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
The defective premises lawyers at Schwartz & Blackman handle cases in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area:
- PA: Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, Allentown, Lehigh Valley, Norristown, Philadelphia
- NJ: Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Camden, Cherry Hill, New Jersey shore cities