Property Management in Atlanta, Georgia - Safety
17-10-2017

We recently concluded a lawsuit in which the tenant was awarded $500,000 for damages. Not a good day for the landlord. Even though our property management company was a co-defendant, the jury did not assign any responsibility to us. If you are a landlord, investor or property manager in Atlanta it would be informative for you to learn why. This case involved a collapsed deck on a residential property. Several people were injured in the

This case involved a collapsed deck on a residential property. Several people were injured in the eight-foot fall, one person pretty badly. We have had several cases in Georgia in recent years that were very similar to this one, but there was one significant difference in this case. Commonly, both the landlord and property management company have not been found responsible, primarily because they had not been put on notice of the failing deck. Had they been, the outcome would surely be different. But even in this case, there was no notice given to either landlord or the property management company.

It has also been firmly established that property management companies and even landlords do not have superior knowledge to the tenant about structural/mechanical defects, especially latent defects. (Latent defects - defects that are not visible to the naked eye or something an untrained eye would not recognize.) The cause of the failing

The cause of the failing deck in this case was due to a rotting ledger board. (That part of the deck designed to attach the deck to the house structure.) In the aftermath, it’s hard to know what that looked like before it broke away from the house. It was therefore decided by the jury that it would not have been something the property manager could have known about, and a similar position was taken about the out-of-state landlord who had not visited the property in at least two years.

Georgia law places a good bit of responsibility on the tenants to identify and report defective items on the house. This is because the tenants have possession of the property and there is no duty under the law that the landlord or the property manager must inspect the premises, looking for defects. What was different in this case, and what hurt the landlord was that the home was 35 years old, and the landlord could not produce any evidence that the property had had a safety inspection on the deck in all of those years. Even though the landlord had no obligation under the law to inspect, the jury must have felt that common sense would have motivated the landlord to have it checked after so many years. They decided that the landlord did not do enough to assure the tenants of a safe environment. The key thing to remember is that, at least in this state, the landlord is charged with delivering a property that is safe and habitable and that necessary maintenance is performed to keep it that way.

What was different in this case, and what hurt the landlord was that the home was 35 years old, and the landlord could not produce any evidence that the property had had a safety inspection on the deck in all of those years. Even though the landlord had no obligation under the law to inspect, the jury must have felt that common sense would have motivated the landlord to have it checked after so many years. They decided that the landlord did not do enough to assure the tenants of a safe environment.

The key thing to remember is that, at least in this state, the landlord is charged with delivering a property that is safe and habitable and that necessary maintenance is performed to keep it that way.

Daniel R. Wilhelm
Master Property Manager Designation (MPM)
3 Options Realty, LLC., CRMC®
678-397- 282
dan @ 3OptionsRealty.com
http://www.3optionsrealty.com

If you are looking for property management in the Atlanta Georgia area we would love an opportunity to talk to you about that. We’ve learned how to do that pretty well over the years. Best of luck to you in the real estate market!

 

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