I live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. New neighbors arrive and depart nearly every week. Sadly, too many suffer preventable injuries due to improperly maintained rental properties.
In fact, my personal injury law firm is currently representing a family whose child nearly drowned in an improperly fenced pool and another person who needed several surgeries after a badly constructed vacation home deck collapsed. North Carolina lawmakers took strong action a few years ago to protect visitors to the state’s beaches and other destinations by enacting the Vacation Rental Act, or VRA.
- Who Is Liable When a Victim Is Injured at a North Carolina Rental Property?
- What Is Premises Liability?
- Premises Liability in Swimming Pool Accidents
My colleagues and I have already used this powerful tenants’ rights law to hold negligent landlords and agents/brokers accountable for endangering vacationers’ lives and well-being. As an added bonus, the language of the statute, as summarized here, is very straightforward and easy to understand.
A Landlord’s Duties Under the VRA That Are Relevant to Personal Injury Claims
The legal owner of a vacation rental property in North Carolina must
- Comply with all current applicable building and housing codes except when grandfathered;
- Keep the building and grounds in good repair and in a habitable condition;
- Promptly fix problems with the electricity, plumbing, bathrooms, heat, air conditioning and major appliances;
- Provide operating smoke detectors; and
- Provide at least one operating carbon monoxide alarm on each floor of the building.
Duties to maintain a safe rental property extend to providing quality bedding and furniture, as well as properly working small appliances. If a vacationer is, for instance, badly shocked or cut by a defective coffeemaker supplied by the landlord, the injury victim could have grounds for seeking compensation from both the landlord and the company that made the unsafe product.
A Broker/Rental Agent’s Duties Under the VRA That Are Relevant to Personal Injury Claims
The person or company that arranges a rental must
- Identify the landlord to the tenant;
- Abide by all the terms of a written property management agreement;
- Alert the landlord to need electrical, plumbing, bathroom, heating, air conditioning and major appliance repairs; and
- Verify that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are installed and operating with fresh batteries.
The VRA does place duties on tenants such as safely disposing of ashes and not intentionally causing damage, but the legal responsibilities for ensure that a vacation property does not place vacationers at risk from the moment of arrival clearly falls on the business operators. This is as it should be. When an individual or family goes on vacation, the last thing they should worry about is getting injured.