Although it’s undeniable that your property’s profitability is an integral part of property management, remember that as a landlord, you will likely be held liable for certain risks. With this said, it’s important to implement safety measures to ensure that your tenants are safe at all times.
In this article, we’ll discuss why safety should be of paramount concern for property owners. We’ll also offer a few useful and easy-to-implement tips on how you can practice safety in your rental property.
Why Should You Keep Your Investment Property Safe?
Here are a few reasons why safety should be born in mind in your rental property:
#1 You Owe It to Your Tenants
Tenants rent your unit based on the assumption that they’ll be safe there. In fact, the belief that they’re free from crime, disasters, and more is probably why they chose your property in the first place. And while you won’t be held liable for everything that happens to your tenants, you are generally the person to “point to” in case of an accident.
With that said, you should do everything within your power to guarantee your residents’ safety. This can be as simple as making sure the smoke alarms work or installing a deadbolt lock. By showing your tenants that you truly care about their safety, you’ll be able to retain your tenants and avoid tenant turnover. Your tenants won’t be willing to give up living in a home where they’re assured of their family’s safety.
#2 To Avoid Legal Disputes
Safety is not only a moral obligation but a legal one. As the property owner, you are responsible for what transpires within your rental property – particularly to your tenants. If something untoward were to happen to your tenants and you were found to be liable due to negligence, you will undoubtedly find yourself in legal trouble.
Let’s say that a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, but your tenants are unable to wake up in time due to the faulty smoke alarm. You will be held liable for the fatalities since it was your responsibility to make sure the smoke alarms work.
Always follow state and federal law, and stay up-to-date on the building code, housing code, as well as other rules and regulations. Knowing the law can keep you from breaking the law, and from lawsuits that will ruin your reputation as a real estate investor.
#3 To Protect Your Property
No investor wants to see their real estate investment on fire – literally. A rental property is not cheap, so it should be in your best interests to protect your property at all costs. If you don’t take security seriously, you run the risk of damaging your property to the point where you’re forced to stop your operations. As a result, you won’t be able to rent it out, and you won’t be able to make money.
Repairing a property is also time-consuming and costly. Unless your rental property is properly insured, you’ll likely need to pay for repairs out of pocket, and this can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
#4 Lower Your Insurance Premiums
One of the factors your insurer will take into account when calculating your insurance premiums is your rental home’s risk. If your property is unsafe or considered high-risk your insurance premiums will be substantially higher. Here are a few factors that may make your home risky:
- Old Homes. Older homes are risky as they’re likely made from materials that don’t meet modern-day safety standards.
- Homes in “Dangerous” Areas. If your property is in an area with a low crime rate, your insurer will typically allow lower premiums. That isn’t the case for properties in areas where severe weather and crime are prevalent.
- Homes with Structural Issues. Your rental property will likely be classified as high-risk if it isn’t up to code. This also applies if you DIY-ed any of the repairs.
- Vacation Homes. Vacation homes are vacant for most of the year, leaving them vulnerable to burglaries.
How Can You Increase the Safety of Your Rental Property?
Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to keep your real estate investment safe. Here’s how you can take a proactive approach to keep your rental property secure:
#1 Secure the Entrances
The door or the gate is often the first line of defense against would-be burglars. The entrance should be made of a durable material that’s impossible to break into, like solid wood or metal. Make sure to install sturdy locks such as a deadbolt for the front door as it’s harder to break in. To make your tenants feel safer, add chain locks for an additional line of defense.
Every time a tenant moves out, ask the previous tenant to turn over their keys. Then, make sure to replace the locks in case they secretly made duplicates of the key. You wouldn’t want your old tenant to enter the home whenever they want, even when a new tenant has already moved in.
#2 Check the Smoke Detectors
As the investor, you need to provide your tenants with smoke detectors that work. These devices can alert your tenants in case of a fire, and in some cases, they can even save their lives. Be sure to check if they still work or if their batteries need to be replaced. If you’re a long-distance landlord, you can delegate this task to your property management firm to make sure that it doesn’t go unchecked.
Ideally, the batteries should be replaced once a year, but if your tenants notice any “chirping” sounds, that may indicate that it’s time to swap them out.
#3 Add External Lighting
One of the ways to scare away would-be burglars is by using outdoor lights. Criminals work in the dark because they don’t want to be exposed, but by investing in external lighting, they won’t have that window of opportunity. You can use a regular porch light, but it would be better to invest in a motion-sensing light so that your house doesn’t have to be so bright all the time.
Aside from illuminating the front door, you should consider adding outdoor lights around the garden, too. That way, would-be burglars won’t be able to hide behind bushes, shrubs, and so on.
#4 Invest in Video Surveillance
While you can’t install CCTVs or video surveillance inside your tenant’s unit, you can install them outside, such as in the stairwell and entranceway. This, however, applies only to the types of properties that are rented out to multiple tenants at a time, such as apartments, condominiums, and more.
For single-family homes, you are not allowed to install a CCTV anywhere within the property, particularly in areas where tenants expect privacy. The exception is that the CCTV can be installed in places that face public spaces such as the sidewalk. Make sure that the CCTV is not pointing towards another property’s windows as that is illegal.
#5 Create an Emergency Preparedness Plan
It would be wise to establish an emergency preparedness plan to guide your tenants in case of disaster. A property management company can help you prepare this, but you can also refer to information that’s widely available on the internet. When your tenant moves in, take the time to go over the evacuation plan – walk them through what to do, what not to do, including where to go in case of an emergency.
Consider printing out the emergency preparedness plan and laminating it so that it doesn’t get damaged. It should contain information such as the escape route, the contact details of the fire department, police, etc., and a step-by-step guide on how to shut off the water, gas, etc. in case of an emergency, among others.
#6 Educate Your Tenants
Did you know that over 60 percent of Americans have never done a fire drill at home? What’s worse is that renters aren’t even sure if their landlord has provided them with a fire extinguisher, and even if they have, they have no idea where it is!
Even if you’ve done your part by providing your tenants with everything they’d need in an emergency, you should go the extra mile and educate your tenants on fire safety, electrical safety, and the like. There’s no use in giving them a fire extinguisher when they don’t even know how to use it.
In addition, offer your tenants useful safety tips from time to time. Remind them never to leave the stovetop unattended. Encourage them to turn on the lights during nighttime. Warn them about the dangers of plugging in too many appliances at once. All it takes is a gentle nudge to get your tenants to cooperate.
As the property owner, you’re responsible for the well-being of your tenants and for the future of your rental property. With that said, you need to take the necessary steps to ensure that it’s as safe and risk-free as possible. And while some disasters can’t be avoided, they can be mitigated by implementing some security measures such as the ones mentioned above.
By taking safety seriously, you’ll be able to keep people and property safe and continue running your rental business without any roadblocks.