5 Tips to Avoid Wintertime Liabilities

by Chris on November 24, 2014

Keeping your rental properties profitable requires staying ahead of risks. While potential liabilities exist year round, winter brings special concerns for landlords. Show your tenants – both current and new — that you care about safety at your rentals:

tenant screening1. Carbon monoxide detectors are a staple for any rental property. Not only are these devices required in most states, but they make good business sense, especially in the winter months when the furnace will be in full use.

Maintaining these detectors goes beyond replacing batteries. Carbon monoxide detectors expire, and must be replaced every few years. Dust and age can cause failures like false positives, prompting tenants to ignore any real danger.

Warming cars in attached garages or near other units is one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning. Notify tenants of the risks, or consider posting signs prohibiting the practice.

2. Devise a plan for ice removal. Even warm-weather landlords could see freak storms, so put some effort into preparation. First, make it clear whose job it is to tackle ice and snow. Generally a landlord is responsible for clearing the common area walkways. If your local law allows you to bind the tenant to snow removal, make sure the specifics are clear in the lease. If the task is onerous at your property, the requirement that tenants shovel snow and ice can lead to problems if you reject a rental applicant with a disability who is unable to perform.

Specify acceptable methods to avoid damage to your property. For example, ice-melting chemicals and salts can etch away at concrete.

Prevention is key: A slip-and-fall injury can costs thousands of dollars and poor winter maintenance may ruin your property management reputation.

3. Improper use of electrical outlets can increase during the winter, in part due to holiday light displays. Other reasons include the use of portable electric heaters and lights in use for a longer period. While inspecting your rental properties, watch for potentially overloaded outlets or cords running over carpeting or walkways.

4. Keep the heat on. Reducing heat to an uncomfortable level encourages tenants to misuse space heaters, one of the leading causes of apartment fires. Gas-powered generators are extremely dangerous and should be left to experienced operators.

5. Outdoor lighting becomes more of a concern in the winter as the days become shorter. Outdoor lights should be set to an earlier schedule because many tenants now will be coming home from work in the dark. Snowy or rainy conditions make it imperative to provide adequate lighting. Colder conditions can tax fixtures and occasional power outages increase dangers, so inspect lighting systems more frequently in the wintertime.

By keeping your tenants safe this winter, you can increase tenant retention and satisfaction, and enjoy your rental property profits season after season.

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 in 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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