By forcing renter to accept dangerous 2 prong to 3 prong adapter, landlord endangers tenant, violates law requiring premises to be fit and in reasonable repair
A woman who is renting a home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula contacted me because she’s concerned about her safety if she uses the 2 prong to 3 prong adapter her landlord has the refrigerator hooked up to.
It was smart of her to reach out to me because her concerns are 100% well-founded.
As I’ve said in my blog post, “How safe is a 3-prong to 2-prong ungrounded plug adapter?”:
“Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, you’ve probably come across a common, but inconvenient electrical problem at one time or another: you have an appliance with a three-prong plug, but the room you want to put it in only has a two-slot electric outlet. Do you use a three-prong-to-two-prong plug adapter, when the original outlet is ungrounded? Is it safe? As an electrocution attorney, I’ve worked with many of the nation’s top electrical safety experts and the consensus on using mismatched adapters is a resounding “no”: a plug adapter, also known as a “cheater plug,” may seem like the easiest — and cheapest — solution, but it’s not the safest one.”
In the context of a landlord/tenant situation, there’s also the legal aspect of the landlord’s duty to make sure the premises that he or she is renting to someone is safe for the tenant and her family to live in.
It’s my firm belief – based on my 35 years of experience as an electrocution attorney – that Michigan law arguably prohibits a landlord from requiring a tenant to use a 2 prong to 3 prong adapter in plugs for appliances – especially in light of how dangerous these “cheater plugs” are known to be.
Specifically, Michigan law provides that “[i]n every lease or license of residential premises, the lessor or licensor convenants”:
- “That the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties.”
- “To keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease or license, and to comply with the applicable health and safety laws of the state and of the local unit of government where the premises are located, except when the disrepair or violation of the applicable health or safety laws has been caused by the tenants wilful or irresponsible conduct or lack of conduct.” (MCL 554.139(1)(a) and (b))
Below I’ve reproduced my conversation with the U.P. renter. I hope you find it instructive. And if you have any questions or if you’ve experienced a similar situation, please let me know.
Helping people stay safe by preventing and avoiding electrocution and electrical shock injuries is one of the great privileges of being an electrocution lawyer.
Can my landlord force me to use a 2 prong to 3 prong adapter in my rented home?
Here’s what the renter from the U.P. asked me about the 2 prong to 3 prong adapter in her rental home:
- U.P. renter: “Can you provide me any links to Michigan state laws in regards to outdated 2 prong electrical outlets. The property manager of the house we signed to rent yesterday left us some 3-prong to 2-prong adapters, and as I had no experience with having to use one before, I didn’t realize this was a potentially hazardous situation. Had I known the seriousness beforehand, my family and I wouldn’t have signed the lease. But I’m just wondering what state laws are (we’re in the Upper Peninsula) in regard to renters’ safety in a situation like this?”
- Electrocution Lawyers: “Since 1965, the National Electric Code (NEC) has required that a grounded 3 prong receptacle be used in new construction. Existing wiring is “grandfathered in,” but if additions or significant upgrade modifications are made to an existing structure and electrical, the newer code must be followed. In two prong outlets, there is both an energized (i.e. live) wire and a neutral (i.e. non-energized) wire, but there is no ground wire. Therein lies the hazard. ‘Cheater plugs’ – which is what these so-called 3 prong to 2 prong adapters are – do nothing to provide grounding, and, in fact, increase the hazards.”
- U.P. renter: “I found out the City of Houghton requires an inspection prior to [a landlord] being able to rent [a home] and found the person in charge of that task. I’m waiting for a call back, as even the refrigerator is on a cheater plug. I spoke to a local electrician who said that’s not safe, as anything you’re plugging in with metal on the outside is at risk. Still trying to get a hold of the inspector.”
- Electrocution Lawyers: “I think the following law, MCL 554.139(1)(a) and (b), might be helpful to you in your dealings with your landlord. The law provides: ‘In every lease or license of residential premises, the lessor or licensor covenants: (a) That the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties. (b) To keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease or license, and to comply with the applicable health and safety laws of the state and of the local unit of government where the premises are located, except when the disrepair or violation of the applicable health or safety laws has been caused by the tenants wilful or irresponsible conduct or lack of conduct.’ Additionally, I encourage you to contact the Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes, and the local City/Township/County building departments in the U.P. locale where you’re renting. Take care and good luck.”