Tenant Safety and Landlord Liability Issues

Posted by Chris Clothier on Fri, Aug 16, 2013

landlord liabilityInvesting in rental property can be a rewarding career if you're doing it right, both in terms of the work and the financial compensation. But it can also be an extremely difficult, tedious job at times, and there are certain considerations that you don't have to deal with in other forms of investing.

Tenant safety is one such consideration. The safety of those who rent from you should be paramount. If it's not -- if you're not willing to take the steps necessary to make sure your tenants feel safe and are safe -- you'll be better off finding another avenue for investing your money.

Tenant safety and landlord liability issues are inextricably intertwined. So many liability issues stem from inaction, carelessness, and lack of an adequate and/or timely response to a problem from the landlord. Hear this, Memphis real estate investors: If you put your tenants' safety first, you'll find that you're covering yourself on most landlord liability issues.

Although legal responsibilities vary from state, we can talk about some general considerations when it comes to protecting your tenants -- and therefore yourself.

Don't Just Meet Legal Requirements; Exceed Them

Don't concern yourself with meeting minimum safety requirements on your properties.  Go above and beyond to make your tenants safe. Make sure all safety features are in good working order: deadbolts, locks on windows, exterior lighting, etc. If something breaks or isn't working correctly, replace it. Immediately. Make sure any hazards/obstructions on the property are removed.  

This is a big deal with our property management company.  We make sure that before the property is even advertised for rent we have cut trees up to above the roof line (if not removing them altogether in the front yard) and that all bushes are cut back where they do not cover and obscure windows and doors. Those are perfect places with lots of shadows for prowlers to lurk so removing them first is a priority.  Prospective tenants always take notice of that. It is not always to make the property look clean...it serves a security purpose too.

Be Conscientious of Personnel

If you use a property manager, do a background check. Pay attention to any red flags, both in background checks and interactions with property manager candidates. Remember, this person is going to be your representative when dealing with tenants. You want him/her to be
competent, friendly, and concerned about the tenants.

Don't allow unsupervised repairmen or workers onto the property. Make sure your renters are aware of this policy.  Encourage your tenants to work with the contractors that you send to a property and to report any suspicious activity. This is a major policy in our property management company and should be with any management company you hire.

Dialogue with Tenants

Engage tenants in conversations about safety. Keep them informed of security/safety issues in the area. Get their input on what will make them feel more secure. If increased security measures are going to necessitate an increase in rent, explain the situation to your renters.
Keep the dialogue going.

For more information on landlord liability issues, check out this FAQ.

What are your thoughts on liability and tenant safety issues? Please share them in the comments!

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Image credit: B Rosen

Topics: Memphis real estate, Memphis property management, landlord liability