In Massachusetts, landlords and building owners are required to keep their buildings up to certain fire and building codes. When apartment buildings, for example, are poorly maintained or are not equipped with smoke alarms, the risk of a deadly fire is increased. Landlords can be held accountable for this, and in ideal situations they are forced to make necessary improvements before anyone suffers in a fire.
Many survivors of fires in the Boston area are currently arguing that state law does not do enough to hold landlords responsible for keeping their properties safe and fire-resistant.
Earlier this week, a number of fire survivors spoke to state lawmakers about the need for a sprinkler law. As it stands, landlords are not required by Massachusetts law to install sprinkler systems in their buildings.
Massachusetts lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would let municipalities create their own regulations to require sprinklers in new multi-unit buildings as well as in buildings that undergo substantial rehabilitation. There are other bills that deal with this issue that are also being considered.
Landlords have argued against such regulations, claiming that landlords and tenants simply need to be educated about fire safety. While landlord education is important, it is helpful only if landlords go on to take actions to prevent fires.
The future of sprinkler legislation remains to be seen. As it currently stands, it is often possible for victims of commercial building fires to hold negligent landlords accountable and to obtain compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering. It may be wise to seek legal counsel from a commercial building fire attorney in order to do so.
Source: The Boston Globe, “Fire survivors appeal for new sprinkler law,” Andy Metzger, Nov. 21, 2013