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10 Things About Landlord Liability

A landlord has both legal responsibility when they rent out their home. These obligations include adhering to safety codes, performing maintenance and paying bills related to the property.

  • Preventing Injury Responsibility

If the landlord is found to be negligent in protecting the tenant’s right to safety, he or she could be found liable for the costs associated with any injuries obtained by the tenant. It is important to get document everything, text or email. This ensures that the communication between you the landlord and your renter is properly documented if you ever have to go to court.

  • Safe Conditions

Actual negligence need not, in most cases, be specifically proven. If a landlord is found to have known something was dangerous and failed to rectify these conditions, then the landlord will be liable for any resulting damages or injuries to the tenant. These issues can be addressed by performing regular inspections and rectifying dangerous or unsafe conditions immediately.

  • Inspect the Premises

To avoid, or at least minimize, the possibility of a lawsuit, a landlord, or the landlord’s agent should inspect the premises from time to time, not just at the beginning and the end of the leasehold. Keep lists of complaints and the repairs that were made. Get tenants involved by encouraging them to report dangerous conditions, or security problems.

  • Covering the Value of Your Property Through Insurance

Most policies cover damages and losses from fires, rain, wind storms, burglary, and acts of vandalism. Other perils, however, depending on the region, usually are not covered.

In the event of floods and earthquakes, you want to ensure that the total value of your building is covered by insurance costs as it pertains to your income. Many standard insurance policies do not cover such events and so it’s important to make sure your specific insurance policy covers the actual value of your property.

  • Liability Claims

Liability claims are usually covered by a comprehensive general liability policy, which includes the payment of damage awards, as well as attorney fees and costs incurred in defending against lawsuits. They are conditioned on the deductible amount and the policy limits.

  • Added Liability Concerns

A landlord should also be aware that lawsuits based on the invasion of privacy have burgeoned in the Internet age, along with more traditional complaints. These include charges of libel (i.e., printed or broadcast statements, including e-mails) and slander (i.e., oral defamation of some kind).

Landlords are legally required to uphold anti-discrimination laws regarding race, religion and more. If landlords make leasing decisions based on criteria found to be discriminatory there can be liability concerns associated with this. This includes your “gut feeling”, as many times those gut feelings could be based on discriminatory feelings you may have. In Connecticut these fees start at $10,000 and go up from there.

  • Vehicle Liability

Any and all vehicles used in the landlord’s business, including those of agents and employees, should also be covered by liability insurance. Even though a liability claim involving a traffic accident may have nothing to do with the landlord’s tenants, such an occurrence nonetheless exposes the landlord’s business to a liability claim, which in many cases can result in substantial damage awards.

Dogs and Critters

Dogs and other critters may also expose a landlord to liability. This largely explains why landlords frequently prohibit their tenants from keeping pets. The liability cannot be asserted simply for renting property to a dog owner, but, again on the “should have known” principle, if the landlord exercised some control over the dog, or “knew” the animal was potentially dangerous, he could be exposed to liability. Also, with this, many insurance companies have animal breed restriction clauses. If your tenant gets an animal that is on that list and they cause injury to someone, your insurance won’t pay for the expense.

  • Security Issues

Although the common law imposed no duty on a landlord to protect tenants from criminal acts, modern law has evolved to the point that a landlord, under certain circumstances, may be responsible for the tenant’s security.

Landlords have a responsibility to protect the neighborhood from the criminal activities of their tenants. Landlords can be sued for public nuisance, and law enforcement and government authorities can impose fines or seek criminal penalties against a landlord who allows drug dealing on his or her property.

  • Bad Behavior Tenants

An increasingly common liability issue that landlords should be on the lookout for is their responsibility for the behavior of other tenants. If he knows of unlawful, obnoxious or other behavior that amounts to an ongoing nuisance, the landlord is required to take steps to protect other tenants, and indeed other people, who are affected by his tenant’s unreasonable conduct. This includes evicting the offender, if necessary.

The best way to avoid potential losses from injuries related to maintenance is, obviously, to keep your property in great shape. If you haven’t done so already, prepare a written checklist and go through the common areas of the property as well as tenant units before tenants move in.

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