During the devastating winter storm that swept across Texas and other states in February 2021, millions of residents lost power and struggled to shelter from the cold. A report by NBC News and The Texas Tribune found that the storm resulted in at least 17 deaths and over 1,400 hospitalizations for carbon monoxide poisoning.
During a cold snap, portable generators, space heaters and vehicle exhaust are often sources of this toxic gas. However, even a working furnace may pose a danger without routine maintenance. Unfortunately, when a landlord is the one responsible for the upkeep, renters may be at risk without suspecting the danger.
Preventative maintenance is crucial
In a working furnace, the carbon monoxide is given off when the unit burns fuel vents safely out through a flue pipe. However, even minor damage to the venting pipe may cause a leak.
Left undetected, carbon monoxide may build up to toxic levels inside the home. Because a furnace can still function with a damaged flue, routine maintenance is essential for preventing a potentially deadly, hidden leak.
Landlord negligence may endanger renters
Tenants may be especially at risk because they assume that the landlord has kept up with maintenance responsibilities. Too often, this is not the case.
Because carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas, renters may not know there is a leak until too late. Very high levels in the home, which may build up slowly, can easily lead to severe brain damage or death.
Tenants should know that landlords have a basic responsibility to provide tenants with a safe, habitable home. If a landlord’s negligence leads to injury or death, renters may be able to recover needed compensation under the law.