Fort Bend Landlord Sued For Failure to Maintain AC

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 25, April 2011 16:28

A Fort Bend area landlord was named in a lawsuit that alleges his failure to maintain a air conditioning system lead to a disabled man's death in the Third Ward area.  His estate is alleging that the disabled man was hospitalized and eventually died to the heat and humidity in the home due to the broken air conditioning unit. This case brings up several issues that should be addressed:

1) Did his lease require written notice? If so, did the tenant provide the landlord or his property management company this notice?  This is why we tell our Houston and Dallas area tenants if they cannot provide certified mailed letters for the notice that they can provide notice by fax or online through their tenant portal.

2) Did he have a unpaid balance at the time of the written request being submitted? The Texas property codes allows for landlords to not be required to make property repairs if the tenant was not current on their rent.  This is why we provide tenants a portal to check their balances and make their repair request.  

3) Did the owner carry liability insurance coverage? Liability coverage can assist when the owner is found negligent for harm caused by property conditions.  Ashoka Lion recommends that our Houston and Dallas property management clients carry $1,000,000 of coverage, but at minimum max out your coverage (usually in a homeowners policy, $500,000 without any special underwriting required). Additionally, you can obtain a umbrella liability coverage to cover any amounts that are not covered in your primary insurance coverage. If you are not comfortable with determining your needs, you can contact a insurance professional to walk you through this process. Ashoka Lion requires all owners to name the property management company a additional insured on the policy to insure appropriate defense in suits like this.

However, the problem is that this landlord will have to incur cost and time loss due to these kinds of legal actions.   This requires a clear documentation of all actions and communications for homeowner and their property management company. This is why Ashoka Lion  works to transcribes our  notes to histories for our owners, tenants, properties, and vendors. Our goal is to archive all documentation and actions taken to mitigate claims of negligence on behalf of the property management company and the Houston and Dallas property owners that our property management company represents. You cannot prevent someone from suing you, but it is prudent for landlords and their property management companies to take appropriate risk mitigation techniques to reduce impact of charges such as these.