Kids & Toddlers, Richmond, VA

7 Replies

We've got a tenant moving in on Tuesday with two kids, pretty young.

Any child safety horror stories or other lessons learned? Definitely want to hear from Virginia investors. In addition to protecting ourselves, we also want these kids to be safe. 

Read a bit on other posts about lead paint, making sure windows are secure, etc. Those things are fine.

We have a steep staircase in the unit, I really want them to get  a child safety gate for it, but I know that's out of our reach from an enforcement perspective (also, don't want to be liable for a faulty gate, etc.). 

Are the controls for the kitchen range on the front within easy reach (such as with most gas ranges) or higher up to the back (as with most electric ranges)? How about the heating system? Forced air is safer than electric baseboard or wall units. If you have electric baseboards heaters, make sure the parents watch out for small fingers or toys that may find their way onto the heating elements. Check these during your periodic maintenance inspections.

Greatest concern that you can easily address if fire safety. Make sure your units have the proper smoke/CO detectors and the parents know how to keep them working safely. Make sure there is proper egress for emergencies. Provide your tenants with information from your local fire department and red cross for safety awareness and emergency preparedness. You can include these with a move-in packet. Helpful regardless of the ages of the occupants.

You may want to have a candid conversation with the parents about your interest in child safety and ask them about their thoughts. Young, inexperienced and/or uneducated parents may not have thought about the environment and child safety. Do they have devices to keep young children out of cupboards, plugs to cover electrical outlets, safety gates, etc. No harm in asking them. They might not have thought about it and you may be able to give them a child safety pamphlet that further explores this. Then again, perhaps they already have this covered and are more knowledgeable than you!

If you are on a busy street gate latches that close like the pool gate latches are a good and inexpensive addition.    If you have an older house you want to be sure that the bath fixtures are current with anti-scald and the water heater is set to the correct temperature. A fire extinguisher in the kitchen is helpful for everyone.   Any low windows? 

You might say it is ok to install a  fixed safety gate on their stairs if they would like to do so.  At the top it may be more likely to be used then the other type.  I would not get into  safety latches etc with them except to say that you are okay with the install of safety measures for the kids and if they have anything  they think you can do that would be helpful from that standpoint to let you know.   I would not start a relationship with tenants by instructing them on the safety of their children but rather from the standpoint of I am happy to assist in making my house safer (within reason). 

Are the stairs code compliant?  (Max 8" rise, min 11" tread depth). Are the handrails compliant with current code?  (Continuous, returned to wall at top and bottom, fully secured, no gaps in ballasts greater than 4", etc).  Are all your "bedrooms" equipped with 2 means of egress? (Note there is a minimum window size in the code).  Are all of your smoke alarms interconnected?  One in every bedroom, one just outside every bedroom, one on every floor?  Are your GFI receptacles up to code? (Within 6' of water, all countertops, and bathrooms).  What about your arc fault breakers for living rooms and bedrooms?  And your tamper resistant receptacles?  

Most of these are requirements for new permits and codes but can be a go to source of exposure in the event that something tragic happens.  It would behoove any landlord to become familiar with the egress and electrical chapters of their local code book.  If you're  a DIYer, to bring the average home into compliance with what I rattled off above will probably cost less than $500.  Pretty cheap insurance from where I sit.

@Marcia Maynard & @Colleen F.

Excellent wisdom, great ideas. Particularly in regards to talking to the tenant in these matters. We sent an email to our manager last night.

@Kevin Mizell

The staircase I am worried about is definitely not up to that code (if anything, it's flipped). It's an older place and the staircase (while carpeted and padded) has to get pretty high in a small distance. We are going to strongly recommend the safety gate for them.

Sometimes stair cases are just tough.  Rebuilding them often bumps you quite a distance from that $500 mark, but could still be worth it in the long run.  If you want to send me a picture and/or a sketch I'll take a look at it to see if I can come up with any ideas. No promises but sometimes it helps to have a fresh look.

@Kevin Mizell

A generous offer indeed. I will send you a colleague request and we can talk some more via email.

My (somewhat amateur) opinion suggests that it would be impossible to get rid of them without massively changing access to the second floor. The building is somewhat narrow at that point, so I think the staircase would need to take a right angle.

Say an accident does happen on the stairs.  Is the owner going to be liable for any damages done to tenant/child.  

Can there be a clause in the lease that protects owner if an accident does happen to  tenant/childregarding stair case?