How to Use Your Tenancy Agreement to Reduce Landlord Liabilities

by Chris on August 17, 2020

Because landlords have a legal duty to maintain a safe rental property, they stand to lose if someone is injured there. So, it makes sense to prevent those injuries and avoid the liability.

The tenancy agreement is a great opportunity to do just that:

Carbon monoxide

Each year, tenants suffer from unintended exposure to carbon monoxide in rental properties. The common sources of these injuries include gas appliances like hot water heaters and furnaces, chimneys, auto exhaust, grills, generators, and space heaters.

Supplying carbon monoxide detectors in the rental unit can eliminate the risk of injury to tenants. However, tenants need to agree to test the batteries in these devices periodically and replace batteries when necessary.

Tenants should be told to report a defective alarm to the landlord. And, of course, tenants must be prohibited from removing or disabling an alarm. It’s also a good idea to explain to tenants what to do in the event an alarm goes off.

Some landlords choose to include this info in a separate addendum to the tenancy agreement, but a paragraph in the body of the lease works, too.

Fires

According to Statistics Canada, there are about 12,000 residential structure fires each year. These events cause loss of life and serious economic consequences.

Avoid this liability by adding a provision in the tenancy agreement that regulates activities most likely to lead to fires — smoking, candles, improper use of space heaters or extension cords, grills, fabric lampshades, fireplaces, and children unaware of the risks.

In addition, the lease can be used to instruct tenants to avoid blocking emergency routes or access with furniture or clutter, maintain smoke alarms, and review the emergency escape plan.

Snow and Ice

A classic premise liability lawsuit involves tenants or guests who fall on slippery steps from snow or ice.

The tenancy agreement is the perfect place to set out the specific responsibilities tenants may have when it comes to clearing walkways around their rental units.

Security

Landlords may be liable for criminal activity in some instances. There is a duty to provide safety features such as door locks, as well as outdoor lighting and reasonably safe access to parking.

Tenants should be instructed to avoid tampering with outdoor lights. Tenants should be required to supervise guests and avoid enabling criminal activity. In addition, tenants must keep others safe by protecting keys — avoiding giving their keys to friends, family, or strangers —  and not providing passwords or access to common areas to anyone not on the tenancy agreement. That can expressly include overnight guests or vacation sublets.

Secondhand Smoke

The dangers of secondhand smoke exposure are clear and landlords who allow others to smoke run the risk of being found liable for a tenant’s illness. But landlords who wish to avoid this liability can institute a no-smoking ban in the tenancy agreement.

Some tenants may find the smell of cigarette or marijuana smoke annoying, and claim that it violates their quiet enjoyment, another source of liability for landlords.

Not as much is known at this time about any health risks from secondhand marijuana smoke. International studies have indicated there could be risks akin to cigarette smoking. A recent study found a correlation between smoking marijuana and autism in children, which is bound to worry some tenants. With a smoking ban in place, it may be easier to implement a ban on marijuana smoking as well.

The tenancy agreement is an essential tool in property management, and the language contained in this agreement should be reviewed by an attorney familiar with the local tenancy rules.

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.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: