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Four Ways Apartment Complexes Can Reduce Liabilities

Property owners and managers face a multitude of challenges when it comes to keeping their tenants safe. But perhaps the greater challenge is protecting themselves from liability concerns, especially when dealing with out-of-the-ordinary lawsuits.

For example, a woman in Los Angeles, CA filed a lawsuit against her landlord, claiming that repair notices were causing her $500,000 worth of emotional distress. In New Jersey, a couple filed a suit against their landlord, alleging that paranormal activity forced them to move out of their apartment.

Frivolous lawsuits have become so common that stories like these fail to shock us anymore. If you're in the property management business, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your liability and protect yourself from sue-happy tenants.

Never Conceal Knowledge of Crimes or Increased Risk 
If you know that dangerous conditions exist on your property and do not inform tenants, the court can hold you accountable for any resulting injuries. Dangerous conditions can include anything from a robbery to a broken stair. Let tenants know about criminal activity that has taken place in the surrounding area and inform them of steps you have taken as well as steps they can take to ensure their safety. 
Secure Your Keys
You are putting yourself and your tenants at risk if you are not keeping your keys 100 percent secure. When you lack proper key control, a key can easily slip into the hands of the wrong person, resulting in theft, assaults or even more horrific crimes. Having a system in place that tracks who has keys checked out can reduce the likelihood of these crimes, keeping your tenants safe from harm and you safe from liability.
Run Background Checks on Tenants

Before allowing a tenant to rent at your property, run a background check. Make sure that all questions are asked uniformly and in a non-discriminatory manner. This means never asking for a person’s race, religion, sex or age (other than to make sure they are of age); otherwise you could have a discrimination case on your hands.

Also check sex offender registries, since renting to a registered sex offender could cause you to be held liable for injuries the offender causes to other tenants. Settling a case in which a tenant is raped or assaulted could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the average jury award is around $1 million.

Take Steps to Reduce the Likelihood of Crimes on Your Property
Courts are increasingly permitting tenants to sue when landlords fail to take basic measures to protect their safety, so it’s in your best interest to comply with security laws in your area. Depending on where your apartment complex is located, this could mean installing deadbolt locks, proper lighting and/or security cameras.

Following these four tips will not only provide a secure environment for residents, but it will also provide you with reassurance that you have taken the necessary precautions to protect your property. 
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