Landlords: Minimize Your Liability This Winter

by | Dec 8, 2014 | Rental Property Management Tips

If you want to maintain profitable rental properties, then it stands to reason that you need to keep your costs down. The best way to do that is to reduce or eliminate common liabilities. Focusing on tenant safety is key.

tenant screeningWhile potential risks can creep up any time of year, wintertime creates some unique liabilities:

1. Slip and fall injuries caused by ice on walkways are a very real concern for all landlords. While generally a landlord will be legally responsible for clearing ice and snow, it may be possible to shift that duty to the tenant in the lease agreement. If your local law allows you to offload the job to tenants, make sure the specifics are clear. For instance, improper use of salt or de-icer can deface cement or stone walkways or destroy wood floors when tracked indoors. Avoid property damage by spelling out what tenants should and shouldn’t do.

Another issue to consider: Some tenants may not be physically able to shovel snow or ice. Avoid discrimination against tenants and rental applicants who suffer disabilities by making alternative arrangements for snow and ice removal. Don’t reject an applicant because he or she cannot shovel snow.

2. Supply your rental properties with carbon monoxide detectors. Often, these are required by law, but even if they are not, it just makes good business sense to take precautions. Not only will you avoid catastrophic injuries, but you will know immediately if an appliance is failing and needs to be repaired or replaced.

Be sure batteries are fresh, and replace carbon monoxide detectors every few years as they reach their expiration dates.

Carbon monoxide leaks don’t occur only in older buildings. In new construction, warming cars in attached garages or near other units is becoming one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning. Notify tenants of the risks, or consider posting signs prohibiting the practice.

3. Outdoor lighting becomes more of a concern in the winter as the days become shorter and the walkways become slippery. Timers should be adjusted so tenants aren’t coming home in the dark. Colder conditions can shorten the life of bulbs, so check out lighting systems more frequently in the wintertime.

4. The risk of apartment fires increases over the winter due to improper use of electrical outlets. Tenants likely are spending more time at home. Overloading outlets for holiday lights or to run space heaters is a common danger. Also, cords run under carpets or strewn along walkways are dangers. While inspecting your rental properties, look for potential dangers with electrical outlets and extension cords.

5. Keep the heat up. Limiting temperature from the main heating source can lead to misuse of space heaters, one of the leading causes of apartment fires. While few landlords plan on losing heat over the winter, minimize the risk by performing maintenance in the summer and fall.

6. Gas-powered generators are extremely dangerous and should be left to experienced operators only.

Focusing on tenant safety increases retention and tenant satisfaction, and that means you can enjoy profits on your rental property 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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