6 Smart Strategies for Limiting Liability as a Landlord
What essential tactics should rental property owners be implementing to minimize risk?
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The truth is that landlords do face a number of risks on a daily basis. These can be legitimate, frivolous, and malicious lawsuits. They can range from injuries from faulty appliances and rehab work to harassment by landlords, drug activity, tenant’s dogs biting neighborhoods kids — or even infamous tenants like Justin Bieber pelting neighboring homes with eggs.
So how can rental property owners protect themselves, their assets, and their other streams of income from these assaults?
Perform Quality Work & Inspections
It’s always the right thing to do to make sure renovation and repair work is done correctly. A few faulty wires on the washing machine, some mold left only covered up, or the hot and cold water piping switched the wrong way can be all it takes to do real harm and land yourself in trouble. Currently, I have an in-house general contractor who does inspections after renovations. Additionally, our in-house leasing agent always completes a walkthrough checklist with each tenant when they move in.
Leave a Paper Trail
Keep great records of everything. That means receipts, inspection reports, tenant maintenance requests, notices to tenants, and more. Have the proof to defend your case. If you want to go paperless (which is what I recommend), upload everything into whichever property management software you use.
Get Good Insurance
No one loves paying for insurance. But when a claim does come up, you’ll be really glad you have it. This might include basic property insurance, coverage for fire, floods, and storms, and even an income policy that covers any gaps in rents if you have to evict. Tenants should normally be prompted to carry their own renter’s insurance. This is usually very inexpensive for them. However, it is essential to verify they have it and that it is renewed on time. Pets can also require additional insurance coverage depending on the breed.
Have a Real Estate Attorney on Call
If you are in real estate long enough and you make enough investments, the chances are that one day you’ll need to call on an attorney or have them write a warning letter for you. This is always most efficient if you’ve already picked a great one out and have them on retainer.
Protect Your Privacy
Not putting yourself out there as an easy target is essential as well. Consider using LLCs, your business address instead of your home, or investing through a partnership to protect your identity, limit your liability, separate business and personal assets, and become a less attractive target.
Use Professional Services as a Legal Buffer
Real estate agents and third party property management companies can provide a great buffer from liability. They physically limit landlords from making expensive legal mistakes and then will often have to take on the costs of legal representation or make claims on their insurance if an error is made. That’s what these services are here for, and they can really pay off in these situations.
Landlords: How do you protect yourself and your business? Any tips you’d add to this list?
Let me know with a comment!