Premise Liability: A Landlord’s Grim Reaper?

foreclosurePremise liability is a landlord’s Achilles’ heel – and it can be a game changer.

Without insurance, one claim could very well end your rental property management days. These days, with verdicts routinely reaching into the  millions -even tens of millions,  if your insurance policy has exclusions or pay-out limits you may not be as secure as you think.

To limit the risk of a premise liability claim, and to keep your premiums manageable, consider this:

Landlord Liable for Condition of Rental Property

As a landlord, you are responsible for the safety of your tenants and their guests.  This requires keeping the property in good working order.

Frequently inspect walkways and staircases for wear, and repair them immediately – your top priority. One good rule of thumb:  make sure all repairs are done to code.

Even where the property is not dangerous to the eye, landlords have a duty to warn about foreseeable situations that could become dangerous:  too many people crowded on a balcony or in an elevator, or children falling from high places.  By some folly of human nature, children love to stick their heads and fingers in places you may never consider.  They can’t assess the risk, so you must do it for them.

Landlords Must Provide Security

Landlords are responsible for providing safe access and secure premises.  This means well-lit, unobstructed walkways and entrances, especially around parking lots and alleys.  Doors must be secure, with high-quality strike plates and deadbolts.  Sliding glass doors are common targets for break-ins.  The locks on these doors are notoriously weak, so provide a blocking device, and make certain your tenants know how to use it.  Also, alarm warning stickers on the windows can serve as a deterrent to crime.

The police department in your area may provide you with free information on securing your rental property or offer risk-assessment inspections.  Check out, Crime-Free Seal of Approval.

Keep track of keys, and make sure that a thief can’t trace them to a unit.

Always screen employees and contractors who have access to keys, units or common areas.

Also, prohibit tenant behavior that can lead to injuries – like smoking or using barbeque’s without covers.

Landlords Must Screen Tenants

Many landlords make the mistake of focusing only on credit reports when performing background checks.

A landlord who is renting to tenants with a history of criminal violence is a free lunch for a premise liability attorney.  Make sure you have performed criminal background and sex offender registry checks, and keep that documentation handy.

Make it a habit to speak with the previous landlord and check references on all applicants.  A person may have displayed violent tendencies but have no criminal record.

For more see, 3 No-Cost Tips to Keep Rental Property Crime-Free.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your real estate investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at joinaaoa.


To subscribe to our blog, click here