Liability & Backyard Improvements

3 Replies

Our latest investment is a 3/2 home which backs to a "lake" (aka a man-made channel). Behind our wire back fence is a hiking path and then the water. We have a small yard. Rental comps are $1050-1100, but we're hoping to push our rental price up to $1200-1250 by improving the yard and making it a welcome gathering place for family and friends. The $1200-range is the typical rent for waterfront homes with small pools in this HOA.

We thought of adding a barbeque, a table and chairs, and a fire pit.  However, a realtor friend said the liability could be too much with a fire pit.  Even though it's in a suburb of Phoenix, it still gets cold during the winter and chilly at night during the fall and sometimes spring, and the fact that you look straight through the house to the lake the minute you walk through the front door is the "money shot."  

I don't think this would be an appropriate home for parents with young children because of the proximity to the water.  Even so, do you think we'd be open to unnecessary liability with the addition of either a built-in or portable fire pit?  Alternatively, what about a tall propane patio heater (we've never had one), or would our liability be greater or the same with that?  We're not in an earthquake zone, but could that still fall on someone?  

The property has a small covered patio, some grass in the middle, and a small raised concrete pad where the former tenant left a chair, as well as some drought-resistant landscaping.  Gravel is in the yard as it wraps around either side of the house, but the space isn't usable.  On one side is the a/c; on the other are the garbage cans.

Thanks...

Hmm...I don't think I'd provide either. I might allow them within the lease, with the tenant being responsible for procuring, maintaining and securing the units if they so chose to get them. 

I'll be interested to know if you make these improvements if it drives up your rent. Around here, spending money outside can make the place easier to rent but absolutely no one even pays attention to the outside when they're looking at the unit. Every time I mention something about the outside to prospective tenants, they say "oh, that's nice" and just continue to concentrate on the inside spaces. 

But is yours waterfront, JD?

It's not just a house; people would want to sit outside with their morning coffee or barbeque and look at the water or the ducks go by.  Being as you're in TN, you likely have no idea what it's like to look outside at water during months of 100+ degree temps.    

A lot of times being a landlord it is about minimizing your exposure to liability.

If a tenant or their guests or kids were to get hurt on the property, you can easily expect yourself in today's society to be involved in an very costly and possibly very long lawsuit.

We advise owners not to leave on lawnmowers, ladders, weedeater's, yard equipment, or even cleaning supplies and chemicals.

It is amazing how fast a tenant will run to a personal injury an attorney.

Always carry high-quality insurance with plenty of liability insurance to protect yourself and remove any items that you do not need that exposure to additional liability.