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Safety code failures that could lead to big lawsuits

If you're a landlord, you already know that you run some risks with premises liability laws. One slip-up on your part, and you could face a serious lawsuit from an injured tenant or guest.

There are certain safety codes that you particularly want to make sure that you keep on track. These issues are some of the most common sources of premises liability for landlords.

1. Window guards

If a tenant requests window guards to protect a young child in residence (or one that visits regularly), you need to get them installed. If you don't, the child's accident would be the result of your negligence.

2. Common areas

Do your rentals share a common area, like laundry facilities, stairwells, lobbies or garages? If so, make sure that light bulbs are always in place and handrails are up to keep slips, trips and falls to a minimum.

3. Smoke detectors

Have you checked the local and state laws lately on the number of smoke detectors each unit is supposed to have? What about those common areas again? Are all the smoke detectors equipped with working batteries? If you aren't sure, it's time for a check.

4. Mold

Mold is your responsibility to clean, along with whatever is causing the mold to form in the first place. Be on the alert for any complaints, but also keep your own eyes peeled for problems in basement areas, storage units and laundry rooms. That's where mold often starts. Mold is a hazard that can lead to all kinds of lung and breathing disorders in your residents.

5. Occupancy violations

You might be inclined to turn a blind eye to an occasional guest who is living on a resident's couch for a month or two, but don't overlook units that seem to occupied with more than the legal number of people.

Know the maximum residency allowed in each of your units so that you can apply the rules consistently and fairly. Occupancy laws are there for everyone's safety. Too many people in cramped quarters create all kinds of hazards, from issues with waste to dangers during fires and other disasters.

If you're not sure what you should do to further insulate yourself from premises liability lawsuits, talk to your insurance agent for more advice.

Source: RentPrep, "Landlord Responsibilities: A Complete Guide," Eric Worral, March 15, 2018

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Rockville Centre, NY 11570

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