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Landlord Risk and Liability Management

November 27, 2019

Dangers Lurk for the Unwary Landlord

Do you take time to consider the risk and liability that landlords or property managers face every day? There are some key responsibilities to know. 

And there are many reasons to be up on risk and liability including legal action, firing, danger to tenants, tenant safety, and potential big financial losses. The management of risk and liability should be integral in daily operations for a professional property management company. Take a moment to consider where all these risks come from.

Risk and liability exist anytime and everywhere, and it’s impossible to completely avoid them. However, as an owner’s representative, the property manager can establish a building management standard and implement safety measures to minimize liability and risk. 

Risk and Liability

Enhancing building security can be done many different ways.

A 24 x 7 day desk clerk service is a good addition.  You can have all visitors sign in and sign out at the reception. The desk clerk can identify whether visitors are on the building’s banned persons “86” list too. These practices reduce risk and help to make tenants feel more secure.

To further enhance safety and security measures at the building, management may consider ensuring visitors are accompanied by tenants when they are in the building, and escorted to and from the front entrance by the tenants.

When buildings are equipped with locked front entry and intercom systems, it is the tenant’s responsibility to not provide access to unknown people. And the tenant should not allow visitors or unauthorized people to follow other tenants to enter the building. 

Tenants Must Take Security Seriously

If any staff or visitors observe unauthorized persons or trespassers on the property and their inappropriate activities, they must contact police immediately.

If tenants refuse to cooperate and get their visitors to leave the property due to abusive behavior, tenants may be served a lease violation notice. This should be stipulated in the tenant lease.

Tenants and visitors must use the main entrance to enter the property. Any side or back doors of buildings are used for emergency exit only such as building evacuation at the fire event. These doors should always be kept locked and alarmed.

Security Cameras Make Safety and Risk Management Easier

If security cameras are installed at the building, it is important that management staff are trained to learn the features of the security camera system.  This includes using the software program and reviewing video replay when incidents occur. In addition, due to liability concerns, management should not release camera footage to tenants under any circumstances. 

When an incident occurs, management should perform its due diligence to collaborate with the police officers so that they can review and/or obtain camera footage. In some circumstances such as vehicle theft, insurance carriers may request management to release security camera video for investigation purposes. 

It’s always recommended to consult with your attorney and/or insurance carriers prior to releasing any information to third parties.

Landlord Key Management

The management of keys is another critical area of risk management. All unit and building keys should be tagged/coded and maintained in a locked key cabinet. The key code information sheet should be kept in a separate location where only property manager and maintenance supervisor have access. Whoever needs to check the keys out must sign the key log and return the keys in a timely manner. It is highly recommended not to create master keys for residential units. 

Master keys for common areas are acceptable and should be kept in a secured area. These keys should also be labeled as “DO NOT DUPLICATE” and maintained by property manager and maintenance supervisor only.

When Absent Procedures

Last but not least, if the management staff needs to leave the office even for a short period of time, he or she should respectfully ask the non-employee to leave the office, and then lock the door. Checks or other valuable items should never be left on the office desks. Of course, when receiving checks, management staff must endorse and place them in a secured area. 

For privacy and security reasons, all tenant files must be placed in a locked file cabinet. It is also recommended that management keeps the former tenant file for a minimum 5 year period to protect landlords in case of claims or court action. 

Property managers and landlords should also check their landlord insurance and property management insurance to ascertain their liability if they are negligent in safety and security. 

 

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Need to check out some property management companies? Here’s a few firms to start with in Hawaii, Boston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.

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