5 Landlord Liabilities You Should Be Aware Of
Foreword: The following article about landlord liabilities does not constitute legal advice. Instead, it is simply some basic advice from the viewpoint of an experienced property manager. For legal advice, consult an attorney.
Dogs are an issue for a landlord to be aware of. They can potentially create liability, though not often. Unless the dog is previously known as violent and has a track record of dangerous behavior, if a tenant’s dog bites somebody then the landlord will typically not be held liable. Instead, only the tenant will be liable because, in Utah, dog owners are held strictly liable regardless of negligence. However, if the dog does have a history, the landlord has the authority to have the dog removed. Here are some suggestions for landlords and St. George property management folks concerning this issue. First of all, it may be a good idea to not allow dogs in your properties in the first place. But for those who do allow animals, consider only bringing in ones that you’ve seen and approved of, don’t allow animals to be off the leash during times when the tenant is not home, leave open an option on the contract saying you can alter the animal clause whenever you want and make sure that your tenants have to have renters liability coverage before moving in. Instructing your renters to obtain renters insurance is advised in nearly all situations.
2. Criminal Activity
As a St. George property manager, protecting your renters from activity that may be criminal is definitely your prerogative. There have been many instances where renters have taken action to sue their landlord under circumstances where the landlord was negligent and didn’t take any precautions to prevent crime from happening. Here are some suggestions to follow. First, you’ve got to make your property safe. Make sure that as the landlord you are following the laws that have been put in place to protect renters, make sure that you are consistently checking security systems in your properties, get right on it if renters inform you of situations that may be dangerous, and you probably should install a security system if you don’t have one already. Make sure that all windows and doors function properly and have proper locks. Also, make sure that keys are accounted for.
3. Windows and Screens
This one may be surprising for St. George, UT landlords who deal mainly with smaller, one-story homes and townhomes, but landlords are definitely liable for screens and windows. This is the most surprising of the landlord liabilities on this list. There are many instances of kids falling from high distances out malfunctioning or broken windows. The owners of the home have typically been liable in these circumstances. Here are some suggestions to consider. First, make sure to make yourself aware of previous occurrences so you stay informed. Also, this is obvious, but you must make sure that all of the windows and screens on your properties are solid and secure. This often gets overlooked. And finally, if you tell your tenant that you are going to install a screen, make sure you follow through so that doesn’t come back to bite you later. All people in St. George property management should follow this advice.
4. Secondhand Smoke
In many states, homeowners, landlords, and other St. George property management companies are required to make sure that their renters are not suffering from secondhand smoke. If you have a renter who has breathing disorders such as asthma, they may have grounds to sue in many cases of secondhand smoke. Obviously, one easy way to avoid this problem is to not allow your tenants to smoke in the home (or outside the home, depending on your preference). If you want to allow smoking outside, for instance, make sure that St. George, UT renters are aware of where those designated areas are and make sure that you pick areas where you know the drifting smoke won’t affect other units or neighbors.
You think these landlord liabilities will never happen to you, but it definitely can and has happened to many St. George, UT landlords. Believe it or not, landlords are usually liable in these situations when bedbugs cause damage or injury. Make sure to have your properties professional sprayed often and especially in between tenant changes. You may want to even think about having mattresses covered with plastic covers if you feel that’s necessary. This situation is obviously more applicable when you are providing a furnished rental. If your rental is non-furnished, this situation may be outside of your control.
Overall, the general idea to be aware of in regards to landlord liabilities is that landlords have a duty to maintain the common areas, or areas within their control. If the sidewalk near the front porch is uneven and creates a dangerous hazard, it is the landlord’s duty to see it fixed, not the tenants. That duty becomes even more pronounced once a landlord is on notice of a given dangerous hazard. Therefore, the general rule is that if your tenant makes you aware of a dangerous situation, rectify it as soon as possible to provide a safe space for your renters. For further information, check out some local free legal resources.