It’s officially autumn, and the chill in the air reminds us that winter is not far off. Landlords face special liabilities in the winter months, so now is a good time to prepare:
1. Winter can increase the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning as tenants are more likely to run the gas furnace, dryer, fireplace or oven for extended periods of time. Same goes for wood-burning fireplaces, and allowing the car to idle while the defroster warms up.
This is a good time of year to test carbon monoxide detectors, check expiration dates (these units typically run about five years) and to review basic safety rules with tenants — like a prohibition on warming up cars near garages or windows.
2. In cold-weather regions, go over your plan for snow and ice removal on sidewalks and other common areas. Generally, it is the landlord’s responsibility to keep access clear, but if that job has been passed on to the tenant in the lease agreement, make sure the person understands what to do, and has the proper equipment for the job. A snow shovel costs about $30. A slip-and-fall lawsuit could cost tens of thousands.
Landlord Tip: Rejecting a rental applicant who is unable to perform snow removal due to a disability may be discrimination, and that’s a costly liability. By taking responsibility for snow removal — or hiring a professional — landlords can play it safe.
3. Outdoor lighting is an important security feature. This includes lighting from parking areas as well as front entrances. The lighting is especially important when sidewalks and steps become icy. Lighting also deters crime. The days are getting shorter, so lights may have to be adjusted to an earlier schedule.
Take the time to work with tenants so they stay safe and comfortable through the winter months. Happy tenants make happy landlords.
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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.