Chicago Apartment Fire Safety: Who Can Be Held Accountable?

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When an apartment fire occurs due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, the aftermath can be devastating. Residents may face loss of property, physical injuries, emotional distress, and even the tragedy of losing loved ones.

The financial implications can be staggering, as rental property victims grapple with medical bills, repair costs, temporary housing expenses, and the loss of invaluable items. More haunting is the psychological trauma of such an event, which can linger long after the flames are extinguished.

In these devastating circumstances, it is good to know that the Chicago apartment fire lawyers at The Kryder Law Group, LLC Accident and Injury Lawyers are here to help you seek justice and compensation.

Chicago Fire Safety Regulations for Apartments

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets safety standards and codes for fire prevention and protection. Additionally, for apartments with seven or more units, there are apartment fire safety measures and fire safety equipment that Chicago landlords must provide to their tenants per the City of Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) including:

  • A fire extinguisher on each floor if the apartment building is three stories or more.
  • Working smoke detectors in each unit and at the top of each stairwell.
  • Landlords are required to provide carbon monoxide detectors in certain residential properties.
  • Working fire escapes for large buildings.
  • Basements, cellars, and attics must be free of clutter that pose a fire hazard.
  • Hallways and stairwells must have adequate lighting, including emergency lighting.
  • Electrical wiring must be maintained in good condition by a licensed electrician.
  • Windows and fire exits must open easily.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Personal Injuries in Apartment Fires?

Various parties may be liable for injuries suffered in Chicago apartment fires:

The building owner may be accountable if negligence—like not providing fire alarms or ignoring safety code violations—played a role.

The person who ignited the fire may be held responsible, whether the fire occurred through arson or accidental negligence. For instance, a tenant leaving an unattended cigarette may face liability if it causes a fire.

Responsible parties may include contractors or maintenance companies when their actions or omissions contribute to the incident.

Product manufacturers may be held liable if their faulty products cause a fire.

Chicago Apartment Fires Caused by Specific Products

Various products have been cited as significant fire hazards in apartment buildings:

  • Vape Pens: These devices have been associated with numerous fire incidents due to faulty batteries.
  • Hoverboards: Fires caused by hoverboards have made headlines, largely due to overheating lithium-ion batteries.
  • Electrical Heaters: These appliances are a common cause of home fires, especially during winter months.
  • Flammable Paints, Glues, and Aerosols: These items, often stored in garages or basements, can be highly flammable.

When Are Landlords Responsible for a Fire?

Chicago Apartment Fire Safety Infographic

To show that a landlord is responsible for an apartment complex fire, the following points need to be proven:

  • The landlord was in charge of the area where the fire happened.
  • The fire area was dangerously unsafe.
  • The landlord either created this unsafe condition or should have been aware of it.
  • The landlord did not take proper steps to fix this unsafe condition or didn’t warn the residents about it.

Examples of Landlord Liability for a Fire

  • Faulty electrical wiring that is not up to code;
  • Failure to maintain fire suppression systems such as sprinklers and fireproof doors;
  • Failure to provide fire extinguishers and smoke alarms;
  • Faulty fire escapes;
  • Obstructions in hallways that hinder escape during a fire or prevent access to firefighters; or
  • Leaving flammable debris out in basements and attics.

When Can Landlords Not Be Held Liable for a Fire?

Landlords are typically not liable for fires caused by tenants’ negligence or unforeseeable events like natural disasters. For instance, if a tenant carelessly leaves a burning candle unattended or a lightning strike causes a fire, the landlord generally cannot be held responsible.

What Responsibilities Do Landlords Have After a Fire?

Following a fire incident, under the RLTO, landlords have a responsibility to ensure tenant safety and provide necessary services. Required actions include securing the premises, arranging temporary housing if the property is uninhabitable, and taking swift actions to repair damages. They must also communicate effectively with the fire department, tenants and authorities during investigations and insurance claims processes.

Tenants’ Rights After an Apartment Fire

Tenant Rights After a Chicago Apartment Fire

Under Chicago’s RLTO, tenants in apartment complexes with seven or more units have the following rights if they, their family, or their guests were not responsible for the fire:

  • A tenant may move out of the rental unit immediately after a fire and must notify the landlord in writing within 14 days.
  • A tenant may stay in the unit with reduced rent that reflects the reduced value of their apartment after the fire.
  • If the landlord failed to diligently fix the apartment after a fire, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and move out after notifying the landlord of this intention within 14 days of becoming aware that the work is not being carried out.

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