Your landlord won’t remove dead trees from your rental property. He could be in violation of Tennessee law.
A young couple is renting a home with a nice backyard filled with trees. One evening, high winds knock over a tree in the yard. An arborist, who specializes in tree health and safety, comes to the property to inspect and remove the tree that fell. The arborist informs the tenants that the tree that fell is dead and that a second tree in the yard is dead and needs to be removed as well.
To ensure the landlord is aware of the dangerous condition at his residential rental property, the arborist prepares and sends a proposal to the landlord to remove the dead tree that remains upright. While the landlord opts to have the arborist remove the tree that fell, he chooses to not remove the dead tree that remains upright.
Is this dead tree a dangerous condition placing the tenants in imminent harm?
When wood in a dead tree is not replenished with nutrients or moisture from the roots, it becomes brittle and susceptible to breakage. Injuries caused by falling branches or limbs can range from minor cuts and bruises to tragic deaths and thousands of dollars in property damage. Thus, dead trees are dangerous conditions to both people and property.
Suppose the dead tree in this scenario is located within a few feet from the carport, master bedroom and children’s room. Due to the position of the dead tree, each time the tenants use their backyard, carport area, master suite and children’s room their safety is placed in imminent danger due to this dangerous condition. The tenants realize that their safety is in jeopardy and request that the landlord have the dead tree removed.
What happens if the landlord chooses to not remove the dead tree?
If the landlord takes no action to remove the dead tree, he is placing the tenants’ safety in imminent danger, he is breaching his duty of care to his tenants and he is in violation of Tennessee law.
What does Tennessee law say about this situation?
Under Tennessee law, a landlord must (1) comply with all requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety; (2) make all repairs and do what is necessary to put and keep the property in a habitable condition; and (3) keep all common areas clean and safe. (TCA § 66-28-304)
Under Tennessee law, when a landlord does not comply with this portion of the law, a tenant may recover damages, obtain injunctive relief and recover reasonable attorney's fees for any noncompliance by the landlord with the rental agreement or any section of this portion of the Tennessee law upon giving fourteen (14) days' written notice.
Tennessee law goes on to say that if the rental agreement is terminated for noncompliance after sufficient notice, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent and security deposits recoverable by the tenant under TCA § 66-28-301. (TCA § 66-28-501)
Tennessee law also provides that if a landlord willfully diminishes services (i.e. not removing a dangerous condition from the residential property) because the tenant reported the landlord’s violation, the tenant may terminate the lease agreement, recover actual damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. (TCA § 66-28-504)
Facing similar issues with your landlord?
Call Collins Legal today. We will assess your situation and develop a strategy that is in your best interests.