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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Playing it safe: A 10-point risk management checklist for residential rental properties

Are you, and your tenants, protected?
Are you, and your tenants, protected?

Owning a residential rental property is first and foremost an investment. And like any investment, its success depends on generating income, or in other words, its ability to attract tenants. With more than 108 million renters in the U.S. and over 22 million landlords according to the Rental Protection Agency, it’s easy to see why property owners and landlords need to identify potential hazards for tenants and guests, and address them accordingly.
The National Multifamily Housing Council says more than 43 million households or 35% are renter-occupied. The largest segment of renters, 17%, are 30 years of age or younger. The cities with the largest number of renters include: New York, N.Y.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Phoenix, Ariz. The majority of renters (43%) live in single-family homes and 35% of renters live in structures with five or more units.
Nothing attracts and retains renters like a reputation for being a safe and secure place to live. Successful landlords and their property managers know that maintaining safe premises is an ongoing process of reducing risk. The following 10 practices serve as a good starting place
Front entrance
1. Doors
All entry doors, whether at common entrances or individual apartments, should be of solid wood construction or steel, and any glass panels should be reinforced and shatterproof.
2. Locks
A deadbolt lock should secure each apartment door and be changed or re-keyed when a tenant moves. In addition, a door chain allows tenants to see who's at the door without completely opening it. A peephole is even better. Windows should also have working locks.
Outdoor lighting
3. Appropriate Lighting
Dark areas not only invite crime, they frighten tenants. Indoor hallways should be well lit at all times. LED bulbs provide excellent light. Floodlights along paths, parking areas and garbage disposal areas can be controlled by timers or sensors to provide lighting from dusk to dawn. Less-visited spots such as storage areas can be connected to motion-detector lights to save energy.
 security cameras
4. Security Cameras
Mounting security cameras in public areas not only gives tenants a sense of security, but deters vandalism as well. There should be a mix of camera types to best monitor targeted areas:
  • PTZ (pan tilt zoom) for large areas like walkways, swimming pools or parking lots.
  • Fixed cameras for enclosed areas such as front and back entrances, as well as elevators, mailbox areas and stairwells.
  • Day/night cameras for outdoor areas that get round-the-clock foot traffic or indoor areas where lights are dimmed overnight.
Cameras protect the landlord in liability cases as well, since they can capture a fall or accident and confirm whether or not the property contributed to the incident.
5. Intercoms
In a multi-dwelling property with a main locked main entry, a multi-line intercom at the entrance allows tenants to communicate with anyone who rings the bell before allowing them access into the building. Some systems have built-in cameras for added security.
Several additional measures that will complement these risk management practices include:
 Background check
6. Prospective Tenant Screening
Not all crime comes from outside of the building. A landlord or property manager should diligently screen prospective tenants to make sure they are law-abiding individuals who will pay their rent, respect the rights of their fellow tenants and will not damage the property. In addition to an interview, candidates should fill out an application in which they give the following information to enable a credit and background check.
  • Current employment
  • Income information
  • Current and former landlord contact information
  • Personal references

Rental contract
7. Rental Contract
Sometimes evictions are necessary. Sooner or later an irresponsible tenant will disturb the neighbors, destroy or damage the property, or fail to pay the rent. To protect themselves and make the eviction process flow smoothly, landlords should require a signed rental contract spelling out both landlord and tenant responsibilities and grounds for eviction.
Since a signed and dated agreement will serve as a legal document in what could be a long eviction process, all rental contracts should be stored in a fireproof, locked file or safe.
 Pet policy
8. Pet Policy
Pet-friendly landlords should include a pet agreement in the rental contract, since pets of irresponsible owners can damage property, spread disease, and annoy or harm other tenants. The agreement should be specific as to:
  • Number of animals allowed per unit
  • Types and breeds allowed
  • Weight limit
  • Specific reasons why a tenant can be asked to remove the animal
Non-pet owners should be required to sign the agreement as well in case they acquire a pet after establishing residency.
Insurance policy 
9. Proper Insurance Coverage
Even with all these strategies in place, disasters still occur. Landlords should ensure that they have the property insurance with appropriate coverage limits. At a minimum, the policy should include the following coverage:
  • Property damage
  • Liability
  • Loss of rental income/business interruption
  • Flood insurance
  • Premises liability

Smoke detector
10. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
No list of landlord precautions would be complete without smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Many states require them, but regardless, any responsible landlord or property manager will make sure each unit contains functioning detectors and accessible fire extinguishers in common areas.
Appropriate risk management strategies protect the tenants and the property owner, providing a safer environment for all in which to live and work. 
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

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