Verdicts for premise liability cases have grown in recent years, highlighting a disturbing trend for landlords. It’s no longer uncommon to see sympathetic juries award $1,000,000 or more for injuries that occur at a rental property.

What is Premise Liability?

Premise liability extends beyond slipping on an icy sidewalk or falling down a staircase. These claims include a wide range of hazards, including secondhand smoke and harm caused by other tenants.

Premise liability stems from a landlord’s duty to keep tenants safe and the property in good repair. That requires a reasonable degree of vigilance. Landlords must anticipate and prevent common situations where tenants and visitors are likely to be injured.

How to Avoid Premise Liability Claims

Screen Tenants and Employees
Landlords must keep tabs on who is living at the rental property and make certain those people have been properly screened. Running tenant background checks on new tenants, requiring guests to undergo background checks, and vetting employees reduces the chances that a landlord will be held liable for injuries caused by others.

Property Inspections
Landlords are expected to know what is happening at the rental property, so every landlord should routinely perform property inspections of the exterior, individual units, and common areas. The inspection should include the parking lot, walkways, doors and windows of the units, storage and landscaping. Examples of items to watch for include:

Outdoor lighting;
Debris or trash;
Walkways and stairs;
Water;
Hazardous chemicals;
Electrical hazards;
Unauthorized guests;
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors; and
Aging tree limbs.

Listen to Tenant Complaints
Make it easy for tenants to report problems. Tenants are good at flagging hazards, like crime in the parking lot, a wobbly handrail, or a loose deadbolt. The best way to avoid liability is to avoid injury, so pay attention to these complaints and act on them immediately.

If an injury does occur, there is little doubt the tenants who complained earlier will be on hand to testify at the trial. Ignoring tenant complaints could result in punitive damages, which may not be covered by insurance.

Educate Tenants
The lease agreement can be a useful tool in reducing premise liability. By including provisions that limit guests who have not been screened and prohibit dangerous behavior like use of pesticides, disabling smoke alarms, smoking, misuse of extension cords, burning candles, storing dangerous items, hoarding, and crime, a landlord can greatly reduce the likelihood of harm.

NOTE: Do not attempt to limit premise liability by transferring responsibility to tenants or asking tenants to waive their legal rights. These provisions generally are unenforceable and may violate consumer protection statutes. Speak with an attorney to determine if any limitations of liability may be included in the lease agreement.

Reducing Premise Liability

Comparing fault
When a lawsuit is brought for premise liability, most states require the jury to assess the relative fault of all parties. It is possible, for example, that the landlord is 60% liable and the victim 40% at fault. That can reduce the damages owed. The higher the victim’s fault, the higher the likelihood that the landlord will win the case and not pay damages.

Misuse
Landlords may not be liable in situations where the tenant’s injury occurs from something unforeseeable. Landlords also may avoid liability if the injury is a result of misuse of the property, such as retrofitting electrical systems, overtaxing appliances, or crime.

Warnings
Warnings can play a role in avoiding premise liability. For instance, posting occupancy limits for balconies may prevent injuries.

These defenses require evidence, so keep contemporaneous records, including a history of tenant complaints and completed repairs.

Know Your Limits

Speak with your insurance agent regarding the specifics of your property insurance coverage. It is important to plan for any out-of-pocket costs that might occur if a claim is filed, and to secure additional insurance riders to cover likely scenarios. Discuss whether requiring tenants to carry renters insurance would reduce liability. Also, the agent may have additional suggestions on how to keep the rental property safe.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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The Key to Attracting and Retaining Good Tenants

by Chris on February 11, 2019

Every property manager knows that good tenants improve profitability. A new report prepared by the experts at Reputation.com proves that customer service matters when it comes to attracting and retaining the best tenants.

Reputation.com, the first and only complete reputation and customer experience management platform, compiled data from more than 400,000 tenant reviews on the most popular rental review sites, including Google, ApartmentGuide.com, ApartmentRatings.com, Apartments.com, Facebook, and Rent.com. Its 2018 Property Management Reputation Report reveals how important customer service is when it comes to tenant reviews.

The research shows that more than a third of all comments were on service-related topics. Three of the top five review categories were related to service levels: customer service, rental office and maintenance. Of the reviews analyzed, people commented most on categories including staff, maintenance, responsiveness, and pest control.

“The results show just how seriously property managers should take their level of service when trying to attract and retain tenants,” said Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of Reputation.com. “The fact that more than a third of comments on review sites touched on the issue of service indicates that tenants are not only thinking about it but also talking about it.”

Online reviews indicate that courteous, friendly property management is more important to tenants than the location of the property. Community events are more important than on-site amenities like a gym or pool. Pest control showed up frequently as a major concern of tenants. Reputation.com experts point out that the cost of pest control is insignificant compared to the costs of a bad online reputation.

Positive reviews often include words such as event, activity, community, helpful, maintain, neighborhood, team, staff, environment, and feel/feeling, whereas negative reviews commonly included words like hole, roach, mold, lie, refuse, bed bug, deposit, charge, damage, smell, fee, leak, break, money, pay, fix, and day notice.

The report also provides valuable information about the review sites themselves. For instance, Google reviewers tend to be the most critical, although, overall landlords do reasonably well, with an average 3.7-star rating. However, Google is growing in popularity exponentially. By the end of this year, Reputation.com expects Google to have more reviews than any other site, making it vital for property managers to monitor and manage these reviews.

The damage from a negative online reputation is difficult to measure because a landlord will never know which tenants they lost. But it’s a simple fact: bad reviews lead to bad tenants.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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Oregon Mulls Ban on Pet Rent

February 11, 2019

Oregon lawmakers have proposed a measure that would ban landlords there from charging pet fees or pet rent. Landlords can continue to charge security deposits. However, the measure still is stoking some controversy. Tenants fear that no pet rent will translate into no pets allowed and some landlords have confirmed that fear by threatening to […]

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7 Tips for Resolving — and Preventing — Noise Complaints

February 11, 2019

Noise is one of the most common tenant complaints, and most landlords will need to diffuse a dispute at some point. Here are some tips to help restore peace — and quiet — to your rental property: Doing nothing is the worst option for landlords. Even if the noise cannot be eliminated, the fact that […]

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Tenants Scam 4 Landlords

January 28, 2019

It’s a landlord’s worst nightmare: no rent, property damage, and months to wait for an eviction. The only way this gets worse is discovering that the same bad tenants have scammed other landlords. A couple in Ontario have been ordered to pay over $20,000 in combined back rent owed to three different landlords, according to […]

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How to Use Credit to Screen Tenants

January 28, 2019

Using information from tenant credit checks when screening tenants can be confusing. For instance, does a landlord need a tenant credit check if they have verified the rental applicant’s income? What if the person seems honest and has good references? Is it unfair to use credit when screening tenants? A tenant credit check is used […]

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These Landlords Most at Risk for Income Loss

January 28, 2019

Absentee landlords. It’s a term that applies when a landlord isn’t around very often. This may be because the landlord lives a significant distance from the rental. Some people never intended to be landlords but found themselves needing to move or managing a property they inherited. Some wanted a rental investment but are reluctant to […]

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Alberta Rebounds

January 28, 2019

The Alberta rental market saw significant improvement over the past five months, according to a new report from Hope Street Real Estate Corporation, an industry leading tenancy management firm specializing in residential rental management. Edmonton experienced a 21% rise in the average rental rate from this past September. The blended average rental rate for all […]

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Landlord Sued for Rejecting Ex-Con

January 14, 2019

A Chicago landlord is facing a lawsuit after rejecting a rental applicant with a criminal history. The tenant was convicted of armed robbery 20 years ago and served six years in prison. The African-American man currently suffers from a disability which limits his mobility. In the complaint filed in federal district court, the applicant claims […]

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When Was the Last Time You Updated Your Rental Application?

January 14, 2019

A solid rental application allows a landlord to quickly identify qualified tenants, obtain the consent needed to run a tenant background check, lead a debt collector to a tenant who defaults, and flag and prosecute tenant fraud. Is your application up to the task? A generic or outdated rental application form can hamper a landlord’s […]

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