Landlords and Property Owners: Inspect and Maintain Your Properties!

Personal injury lawsuits brought by tenants and their invitees are often based upon the owner/landlord’s failure to inspect and remedy dangerous conditions on the property. The most common conditions leading to personal injury lawsuits include the following:

  • Dangerous surface conditions on sidewalks and pedestrian areas, including parking lots, sidewalks, hallways and carpeted areas.
  • Missing or inadequate lighting.
  • Security defects, including broken locks, defective electronic security systems and inadequate surveillance.
  • Problem co-tenants on the property.

How can a property owner combat these risks? Here are some suggestions:

Dangerous Conditions: The best defense against lawsuits based upon dangerous conditions is a program of frequent inspection and repair. Places where tenants walk, both indoor and outdoor, should be inspected for surface irregularities and repaired accordingly. These can include cracked sidewalks, potholes, broken steps, loose or wrinkled carpeting, surface contamination by snow, ice, loose gravel or other slippery substances, etc.

Lighting Problems: Proper interior and exterior lighting play a significant role in the safety of any property. Sometimes personal injury claims combine dangerous physical conditions with inadequate lighting to form the basis for recovery against a property owner. Both personal security and physical safety are enhanced with proper lighting. As with dangerous physical conditions, frequent inspections and repairs should be made to correct inadequate lighting on the property.

Security Problems: Tenants and their invitees have a right to personal security on your property. If there is a central access point to a building it should be controlled so that only authorized persons are permitted entry. This is sometimes accomplished with an electronic key or by using an electronic key pad; in older properties it might involve a physical key. Access to keys and entry codes must be tightly controlled so that unauthorized persons may not gain entry. Once you install a security feature such as a secure entry door the law requires you to maintain it. A property with lax security or disabled security features is a potential target for personal injury claims.

Problem Tenants: Sometimes a landlord becomes aware of an existing tenant with potentially dangerous propensities. A tenant might be conducting an unlawful activity on the premises, such as dealing drugs. Improper or unlawful activities by one tenant can create safety and security issues for other tenants. Most leases prohibit unlawful activity on the premises. If a landlord becomes aware of such activity the landlord may be obligated to take action against the offending tenant in order to protect the other tenants. This might include contacting local law enforcement agencies and/or seeking to evict the problem tenant.

More than ever before landlords and property owners have a duty to tenants and invitees to insure their safety and security. It sounds trite, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this circumstance. Frequently inspect your properties and address safety and security concerns before they turn into personal injury lawsuits. A side benefit is the fact that a well-maintained, clean, well-lit property generally leases faster and for higher monthly rent; thus, there is an economic benefit to safety and security maintenance.

— Kevin Palmer

Posted in Newsletters, Real Estate / Property  |  Leave a comment

Leave a thought...