As landlords, it’s natural to put a lot of thought into making your rental as appealing to prospective tenants as possible. After all, attracting the best tenants is the foundation of your business and the surest way to avoid extended vacancies. However, a property manager’s responsibility for tenant safety is even more critical for maintaining a successful long-term rental business.
But what aspects of a rental’s safety are your responsibility compared to your tenants’? And in what cases could you be legally responsible for any harm to a person on your property?
What Legal Responsibilities Do Property Managers Have for Tenant Safety?
The duty of keeping a rental safe and well-maintained falls to a property manager. A person may have cause to sue for civil penalties if they believe the property owner’s negligence caused them harm—even if they’re not the resident. In those cases, a judge will determine whether any party acted unreasonably to cause or contribute to the plaintiff’s injury. As the property manager, you may face serious legal trouble and fines if a jury finds that you deferred crucial repairs or did not keep a building up to code. The three most common safety issues for rental properties are slips and falls, physical attacks, and fires.
The key takeaway is that if there’s anything you could have done to prevent an injury on your property, a judge may find you liable for that injury. As a result, it’s best to take proactive steps to ensure you maintain stringent safety standards on all your properties.
Accidents are one of the most common safety issues reported on rental properties. Unfortunately, there are many ways a person could slip and fall, and accounting for them all is challenging. However, a few hazardous areas are a great place to start:
- Ensure all steps have sturdy railings and anti-slip pads if necessary.
- Establish whether the lease requires you or your tenant to keep the property clear of fallen leaves, snow, ice, and other hazards. If it’s the tenant’s job to clear paths and walkways, consider sending out some recommendations on fall and winter maintenance to help them perform these tasks safely.
- Schedule routine inspections to check the rental for any potential hazards.
- Stick to a quick timeline if your tenant submits a maintenance or repair request. If you take too long to fix an issue and your tenant gets hurt, they will likely take you to court.
With murders in Portland reaching record levels in 2021 and 2022, it’s clear why crime is of great concern to local renters and landlords alike. Burglary, vandalism, and other nonviolent issues can also significantly impact a property and drive residents away. Summertime is the peak for theft and other offenses, as criminals target rentals whose residents are on vacation. But there’s plenty that you as a property owner can do to keep your tenants safe year-round:
- Fit your property’s doors and windows with solid locks. This ensures they cannot be quickly forced open by a burglar.
- If your rental property has public areas that multiple units can access, consider installing security cameras to discourage or catch criminal activity.
- Send out tips for your residents to help them stay safe, including any relevant neighborhood resources or concerns.
A fire can start in any room at any time. Electrical wiring, a faulty appliance, a forgotten candle, or a neglected oven can quickly escalate into a blaze that destroys entire homes and puts lives at risk. That’s part of why fire safety is one of the most essential components of a landlord’s responsibilities.
- Make sure your rental is in line with your local fire code.
- Service your rental’s fire extinguishers yearly and ensure you have enough for the rooms and units in your rental.
- For multi-story apartment buildings, include a fire escape plan where residents can easily see it.
- Ensure that all fire escape routes remain unblocked.
- Stay on top of home maintenance to reduce the risk of electrical or kitchen fires.
- Include smoke detectors as a checklist item in your regular maintenance schedule to ensure they’re functioning properly.
Compared to other safety issues, the danger presented by a large-scale disaster is far less likely on a day-to-day basis. However, there’s no telling when a severe event could affect your rental and its residents. Consider making a plan for the following situations to keep your tenants safe:
- Winter storms may not blow through every year, but when they do, they leave chaos in their wake. In addition to providing guidance on avoiding slips and falls, inform your residents on what to do in case of a power outage and ensure all winter maintenance is complete in advance.
- As our area experiences the effects of wildfires, encourage your tenants to learn about necessary safety measures. Keep your units’ HVAC well-serviced to ensure your tenants can filter out smoke. In cases of imminent fire danger, convey all the information your tenants will need to evacuate and stay safe.
- Experts estimate that the Cascadia Fault Line will cause a significant earthquake sometime in the next 50 years. When that happens, it may have serious implications for our area. Consider including information on preparing an earthquake kit when tenants first move into their rental.
Property Managers, Don’t Let Safety Responsibilities Slide
Understanding your safety duties is critical to maintaining a property, avoiding serious fines, and keeping your tenants safe in their homes. By staying actively engaged with your renters’ safety through regular inspections and top-notch tenant communication, you ensure the time they spend renting from you is enjoyable and safe. But if you’re concerned about staying on top of a growing list of repairs or struggle to keep in touch with your tenants, working with a property management company can give you the best of both worlds.
Rent Portland Homes by Darla Andrew is dedicated to putting tenant safety first. We’ll keep your rental in excellent repair and handle all repair requests in a 48-hour window. With our help, you can enjoy the benefits of a professionally managed rental without the stress of doing it yourself. For more information, reach out any time.