Getting a Recovery for Fire Injuries; The Illegal Apartment

Illegal apartments have been in the news lately.  See, e.g., this story and this story.

On Monday morning a family of three died in a fire in their apartment on Prospect Avenue in Bronx.  The owner had carved-up a legal two family home into multiple illegal apartments without adequate exits.

Belmont, Bronx, building where Juan Lopez, 36; his wife, Christina, 43, and son Christian Garcia, 12, died in an early-morning blaze on Monday. Eight were injured in fire. 

      The scene of a recent fire at Prospect Avenue,  Bronx, New York

Such illegal firetraps are nothing new.  We wrote about them in this post in 2008.

In view of the recent deaths the New York Daily News  is urging the City to be more vigilant and shut-down illegal housing.  Unfortunately, this housing has a ready market among the poor and working class who cannot afford better housing.

An illegal apartment can be dangerous from a number of reasons:

  • Inadequate number of exits.  Generally, a multiple dwelling must have two means of exit or egress. 
  • Lack of ventilation and windows.   Many illegal apartments are in basements next to furnaces and boilers emitting carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless toxic gas.
  • Unsafe building materials.  Owners use substandard sheetrock and other materials which may allow the spread of fire.
  • Inadequate and illegal electrical systems.  Owners may tend to use unlicensed handymen rather than licensed electricians.
  • Failure to install smoke detectors.

The owner’s violation of the building and fire codes can be used as evidence of negligence in a lawsuit against the landlord.

Early investigation is a key to success in a lawsuit.  Investigation can included an inspection by fire and building experts.  A lawyer should be retained early.

Mark E. Seitelman, 4/28/11,


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