Landlords and Liability
Landlords are usually liable for injuries that tenants or visitors incur as a direct result of the landlord’s negligence. When it’s proven that cause of an injury is the product of a dangerous condition, landlords can be found liable. It’s here where costly lawsuits can impact your savings, so it pays to be sure your property is well-maintained and properly insured. Take a proactive approach by encouraging tenants to report conditions that are dangerous or require repairs and track issues until they’re resolved.
Landlords are also at risk for other liabilities. The careless handling of personal information or slandering a tenant online can sometimes be considered libelous, and may result in expensive civil judgements. Insulate your finances with commercial umbrella insurance. Your primary business insurance may be sufficient to protect you against the usual kinds of loss. But if an award or settlement exceeds the limits of your policy, that additional financial burden falls to you and your business. With regular, scheduled inspections of your property and your tenant’s living space, you can help reduce your liability exposure. Put a safety net around your finances and find peace of mind with this added protection.
Landlord Response Time Requirements and Maintenance
The answer depends on the severity of the problem. If a tenant contacts you and informs you that a window has been broken and rain is pouring in through it, you need to react quickly for a couple of good reasons. By law, landlords promise their tenants a “warranty of habitability” — when an issue impacts that warranty, you’ve got to respond quickly. Typically, a 24 hour board-up service can be called to lock out the elements and that warranty is restored. The task of replacing the glass can usually be handled with less urgency. Always fully document issues that impact the tenant’s warranty of habitability for your records.
Landlords and Eviction Documentation
Evidence, or “cause,” for eviction is always the first thing you’ll need. Carefully document the details: dates, times and correspondences should all be kept on file. If the tenant has violated the terms of the lease, you’ll likely be required to deliver a “Notice To Quit or Pay” — a formal document — informing the tenant that they must move out by a given date or number of days. After that period has expired, you’ll begin eviction proceedings. Be sure to check in with your attorney before you file, and verify you’re working within the state and local laws.
Evictions happen for many reasons, so outline them in your agreement. Write your lease with the assistance of a real estate attorney. Be sure it carefully covers other circumstances that can result in an eviction. If illegal drugs are present, being produced or sold on your property, that may be cause. And excessive noise that disturbs neighbors after designated quiet hours may be as well. Other issues like property damage or certain legal/criminal situations involving your tenant may be cause for eviction.
Landlords and Homeowners Associations (HOAs)
An HOA is the legal entity that governs the business affairs of planned communities. They also pay for the maintenance and upkeep of common areas with a monthly or annual fee charged to each member. Although HOAs may cover structure protection, they usually don’t cover the personal belongings inside those structures. That’s why it’s so important to review the many benefits of renters insurance and to require it of your tenants.
If you’re considering a rental property purchase that has an HOA, be sure to check their bylaws first and verify that they allow owners to rent out their unit. Carefully examine them for other rules and be sure to include in your agreement terms stating that the tenant will abide by all HOA rules and bylaws.
What Landlords Should Do With Abandoned Personal Property
Some state laws require that you have to hold onto tenant property for a number of days before you’re allowed to throw it away, sell it or keep it. However, if the items left in or on the property pose a health or safety risk, you may need to act fast — contact local authorities for assistance. A good idea is to include a few clauses in your lease agreement that impose fines for personal items left behind because it’s going to cost you time and money to deal with these items.