Tenant Safety

Posted by Teresa on September 24, 2009 under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Keep tenants safe with proper deadbolt locks.

Keep tenants safe with proper deadbolt locks.

Nobody wants to receive a phone call like a landlord we know recently did: “I just slipped on some wet leaves and tore the ligaments in my knee.” Luckily, this landlord has plenty of insurance to cover just such an incident—but as everyone knows, making an insurance claim can lead to higher rates or even cancellation.

Landlords and property managers must do their due diligence when it comes to keeping tenants safe. Being prepared and performing a little hard work can go a long way to preventing problems that lead to injuries, lawsuits, and losses.

First, make sure your properties have sufficient locks on all the doors and windows. Deter criminals with good lighting, and keep shrubs away from windows. Make sure your tenants understand the importance of key control, and advise them in writing against venturing out alone—especially if the neighborhood is historically sketchy. Don’t rely on tenants to alert you to broken locks or burned-out lights. Do your own periodic inspections to stay on top of these issues that can cause a landlord to lose a lawsuit in a heartbeat.

Give each tenant an evacuation plan. Provide escape ladders if second-floor bedrooms can be cut off from exits in case of fire. Also, provide fire extinguishers in the kitchen and at least one other room.

Don’t require tenants to rake leaves or shovel snow. Either do it yourself, or hire professionals to take care of the grounds. Whether it’s from a pile of wet leaves or a slick patch of ice, tenants can be injured on your property if it’s not well maintained. There is no magic formula to prevent any and all injuries, but it still will benefit the landlord or property manager who does everything possible to keep the property safe. And, the courts see it as the owner’s responsibility, not the tenant’s.

Conduct safety inspections. You should keep your eyes peeled every time you enter your rental property, but be sure to also schedule periodic safety inspections. Look for problems with broken or rotted stair treads, wobbly railings on stairwells, porches, or decks, and windows that don’t operate properly. Make sure locks are easy to operate, and smoke and CO2 detectors are functioning. Trim broken tree limbs before they come down on a tenant’s head.

Finally, keep communicating with your tenants. Provide them with more information than you think they need—it could help you win a court case someday.  Write up a list of safety tips, and firmly state your visitor and key policies in your lease. Alert tenants whenever maintenance or construction projects will be going on, and advise them to avoid the areas being worked on. And remember to check in with your tenants—ask if all their safety equipment is working properly, or if doors and windows are getting stuck. Keep communicating and you’ll find out what needs to be addressed much sooner—which could possibly prevent and injury for a tenant, and a lawsuit for you!

Remember, protect yourself and your property by screening tenants prior to leasing. For more landlord resources, including forms and information on tenant screening, turn to E-Renter.com. You’ll know that you have the best possible tenants when you prescreen tenants.