Visitor Question

My ceiling fell in while I was sleeping, can I sue?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Raleigh, North Carolina)

I moved into the apartment a month ago. Within that month I had to contact my landlord 3 times about leaks in the apartment. Last Friday I woke up to the entire ceiling of the living room caved in. Since then, I have found out that there was very high levels of asbestos and all of my stuff would have to be trashed that wasn’t plastic.

I came back to my ceiling illegally fixed, without the asbestos taken care of and the asbestos-ridden items put in my closet and on my bed that hadn’t been previously touched by asbestos. Can I sue? Do I have a case? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Anonymous,

North Carolina’s General Residential Rental Agreements Act sets out the duties and obligations of a landlord. The following sections of the Act would apply in your situation…

§42-42(a)(2) requires landlords to “Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition…”

§42-42(a)(4) requires landlords to “Maintain in good and safe working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances supplied or required to be supplied by him provided that notification of needed repairs is made to the landlord in writing by the tenant except in emergency situations…

In most cases, the landlord’s duty to repair is contingent upon a request made by the tenant in writing. However, the written notice requirement does not apply in emergency situations, such as loss of heat in mid-winter or sudden leaks in the plumbing that are going to cause damage to the premises or injury to the tenant if a repair service is not called right away.

Based on the facts you present, a written notice of the plumbing problem was not required. However, it would be a good idea to notify your landlord in writing. The letter does not need to be formal or notarized. The purpose is to create a written record of you notifying the landlord of the problem.

Sign and date the note and keep a copy. If you have to hire a repair person yourself because the landlord will not do anything, a copy of the written notice will be very helpful if you go to Small Claims Court seeking reimbursement for the repair bill you paid.

In most North Carolina cities and large towns the failure of a landlord to comply with the Residential Rental Agreement Act gives a tenant the right to take legal action. The legal action permissible by statute is is to file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord requesting the court’s permission to withhold part of the next month’s rent payment to cover the costs of repair of the ceiling. Without court approval you are not permitted to withhold rent.

For assistance filing a small claims action against your landlord contact:

Consumer Protection
North Carolina Attorney General’s Office
114 West Edenton Street
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
(Telephone: 919-716-6000)

Learn more here: Landlord Problems/Disputes

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,


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