As a landlord, you try your best to exercise your duty of care. However, tenants might experience an injury on your property, and the burden could fall on you. Recently, there has been an uptick in tenant vs. landlord court cases.
In some instances, tenants have been awarded $1,000,000 because of the negligence of their landlords. It is your responsibility to understand what premise liability entails, as it extends beyond a tenant slipping on a sidewalk or tumbling down their stairs. Other hazards that you could be held accountable for include second-hand smoke or a tenant is harmed by another person on your property. Your duty is to keep your tenants reasonably safe and to ensure that your property’s maintenance is being kept up. Although you can’t always monitor your tenants, you as a landlord should be able to anticipate and prevent situations that could lead to tenants being injured.
Avoid Premise Liability Claims
To prevent a premise liability claim, you need to screen your prospective tenants and employees for previous offenses. Do this by enforcing tenants and employees to submit a background check upon applying. Conducting apartment inspections is another responsibility you need to be on top of. Inspect the interior of each apartment as well as the common areas, such as pools and the gym. Have your maintenance team also conduct inspections, as they might be able to pinpoint problems that you might not know of. The inspection should also include parking lots, the doors and windows of each apartment, a lightbulb audit, and landscaping. Look out for hazardous chemicals, electrical hazards, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors that need new batteries, dirty pool water, and aging tree limbs.
Listen to every complaint that your tenants report and handle all complaints immediately. If a tenant complains about a wobbly handrail, take them seriously the first time. Don’t put this off for months because that’s a guaranteed injury that you’ll be liable for when someone collapses. Develop a system that’s easy for tenants to report problems to, such as by providing them with a 24/7 maintenance number to call. If you ignore complaints, they will be held against you in court. This could lead to you paying punitive damages. Ensure that your apartment leases are detailed. Include provisions that go in-depth about prohibiting irresponsible behaviors, such as disabling smoke alarms, smoking, hoarding, and stealing from other tenants.
Reduce Premise Liability
When it comes to premise liability lawsuits, the jury will assess the relative fault of all parties. The more the situation is your fault, the more compensation a tenant will be entitled to. Landlords might have a chance of winning a case if the tenant’s injury occurred from an unforeseeable event, or if the tenant misused your property. Posting warnings where applicable will not only help keep your tenants out of harm’s way, but they can protect you from premise liability. For example, you can post signs with occupancy limits on balconies and pools to help reduce the likelihood of an injury. These defenses will require you to have evidence that you’re not at fault, so keep records of tenant complaints as well as records of completed repairs.
Unfortunately, you can’t fully safeguard your tenants, but it is still your responsibility to prioritize their safety and comfort. Performing routine inspections, checking in with them, and hearing out their complaints will make your tenants feel valued.