Negligence Can Lead To Electrical Fires In The Home
In late September, the community of Macon, Georgia mourned the death of a woman who was killed in a house fire. Reports indicate that the fire started in the attic of her home, and was due to an electrical problem.
Every year, there are an estimated 30,000 electrical fires in U.S. homes – especially during the colder months – resulting in almost 500 deaths, more than 2,000 injuries, and approximately $1 billion in property damage. Although there are no reports, as of yet, that this was the case in the recent tragedy here in Macon, in some circumstances, tragedies like these can be due to property issues neglected by a landlord, which can result in serious safety issues and premises that have not been kept reasonably safe – an area of the law known as premises liability, as we discuss in greater detail below.
Most Common Causes
The most common causes of electrical fires in apartments and homes are due to:
- Old/faulty wiring: Old faulty wiring alone leads to an estimated 33 percent of all residential fires each year
- Ungrounded plugs
- Overloaded light fixtures
- Flammable materials placed near light fixtures
- Extension cord misuse
- Space heaters
- Old appliances
Landlord Duties to Prevent Electrical Fires on Premises
Landlords have a duty to keep premises not only “habitable,” but safe for their tenants, and this includes conducting regular inspections to make sure their properties are kept safe as rentals and investing in the right resources to ensure that safety. At a minimum, landlords should regularly take the following measures to ensure that their premises are not at risk of electrical fires:
- Check electrical wiring
- Replace any and all worn, old, damaged, and/or frayed wiring
- Ensure that the electrical system grounding is appropriate for the household
- Professionally replace any light switches that are hot to the touch and/or lights that flicker
- If renters have children, use safety closures to “child proof” electrical outlets
- Ensure that all smoke alarms are working properly (or replace if need be)
- Ensure that there are no rodents or roaches chewing on or otherwise damaging electrical wiring
- Ensure that the property is up to date, not only in terms of electrical wiring, but structurally as well – buildings that are older can sometimes be made of dangerous materials that are more likely to catch fire
- Ensure that electrical sockets are GFCI, as required by building codes, with the presence of a ground-fault. This causes the power to sockets to automatically shut off under some circumstances, preventing an electrical fire
- Ensure that the building has a grounded system, which protects appliances and electronics from surges
- Ensure that the building either does not have aluminum wiring (which can easily overheat), or regularly inspect it to ensure it does not pose a fire hazard
Be Aware of the Warning Signs
Some of the warning signs indicating that your apartment or home could be prone to an electrical fire include the following:
- Electric sockets that have a difficult time gripping a cord plug and/or which are discolored
- If any currents rest in front of electric sockets
- Any light switches that are hot to the touch
It is also crucial that any and all work done to keep the premises safe is done by professionals as opposed to inexperienced landlords trying to save money on upgrade costs.
Macon, Georgia Landlord Negligence & Premises Liability Attorneys
If you have any questions about hazards at your rental and/or a potential premises liability incident, contact our Macon premises liability attorneys at the Law Offices of Buzzell, Welsh & Hill today to discuss your options.