Keeping your property safe is not only important for your tenant, but also for you as the landlord. Taking the right precautions can help protect you from potential legal issues and may help you better maintain your investment. Consider these tips when renting out your property:
Home Address Numbers
According to the Chicago Tribune, one simple step you can take to improve the safety of your property is ensuring your house number/building number is easy to see from the street. This helps emergency personnel quickly locate your property in case of an emergency. Some tips to help increase address visibility include:
- Clear trees or obstructions that may cover the number on the building or street sign
- Paint reflective numbers on the pavement so they are easy to see from the street
- Increase contrast between numbers and backgrounds to make them stand out
- Make the numbers large enough to see from 100 feet or more in any direction
Make sure your properties are fully equipped with fire alarms and/or smoke detectors. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, at a minimum, all sleeping rooms and commonly used hallways on each floor of a building should have smoke detectors or alarms. Detailed evacuation plans should be set up and posted throughout the building, and it may be a good idea to review the plan with your tenants. Additionally, be sure to connect with your tenants so you are aware if anyone needs special assistance and offer additional support accordingly.
Test your fire alarm systems regularly and get annual maintenance by qualified personnel to help ensure full functionality in case of emergency. This process can include cleaning smoke detectors, replacing batteries, checking fire extinguishers, and conducting fire drills, if you have multiple tenants. Remember, it is your responsibility as the landlord to ensure the smoke detectors and alarms are working on move-in day.
Apartment complexes often have sprinkler systems in addition to fire alarms. Sprinkler heads are usually located throughout living areas and hallways and will spray water when they sense heat. It is the landlord's job to maintain these systems and regularly test their functionality. If a problem arises with the sprinkler system, or if you need them properly installed, contact a licensed contractor to help resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Hazardous Chemical Storage
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, potentially hazardous chemicals, such as cleaning products or pesticides, require proper storage for safety. If you store any of these chemicals at your property, instruct tenants on safe handling and follow these common precautions for storage:
- Keep pool chemicals, such as chlorine and muriatic acid, in separate containers and store in a ventilated area
- As recommended by the American Petroleum Institute use only state and local government-approved containers for gasoline storage, and for greater fire safety, follow fire codes â€“ which usually do not allow you to store more than five gallons in a container
- Store other flammable and combustible liquids, such as some cleaning or home maintenance supplies, away from heat or open flame (e.g., gas water heaters or other ignition sources)
The Electrical Safety Foundation International reports that electrical issues are the cause of around 51,000 home fires each year. As the landlord, you need to make sure electrical systems and wiring are installed correctly. In fact, theU.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends having the electrical system checked by a qualified electrician if it hasn't been done in 10 or more years.
As another way to encourage electrical safety, instruct your tenants to avoid possible fire starters, such as improper use of extension cords, malfunctioning appliances, and overloaded circuits.
Heating and Ventilation (HVAC) Units
HVAC units require regular service to ensure efficient operation and check for potential fire risk. Make sure motors aren't covered in grease or dust and clear your filters on a regular basis. Monitor your vents and air returns and keep them clean for more consistent airflow.
If your property includes a pool, you must take into account special considerations regarding tenant safety and landlord liability. If an accident occurs at your pool, you could be found liable, even if you were not present at the time of the incident. As the landlord, it is important to do everything in your control to make sure the pool is safe to use and being used safely.
Consider these tips to help protect you and your tenants from potential swimming pool hazards:
- Make sure your landlord liability insurance policy includes pool coverage
- Post pool safety rules within plain view
- Install a fence around the pool with self-closing doors and keep flotation devices within the fenced area
- Keep all pool chemicals out of reach of children and use care when handling them
- If possible, install a telephone near the pool for easy access in case of emergencies
- Test the water quality at least two times a day—even more often if the pool is used frequently
- Put a first aid kit, stocked with basic supplies, within the pool area
As a landlord, it is important to provide a safe environment for your tenant, but don't forget about your own safety. Consider the following precautions to help protect yourself when renting out a property:
- Utilize a fair and thorough screening process—this can include a background and credit check as well as looking into rental history and calling references—to rent to safe, respectful tenants and proactively avoid problem situations
- Meet potential renters in public before bringing them to the rental property and get their basic information up front
- Collect rent checks through a P.O. box, drop box, electronic transfer, or PayPal, and don't share your home address with your tenant