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
Secure Your Keys
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.