Lease prohibits balcony use - tenant uses balcony and says fix it

8 Replies

Hi BP,

This is my first rental I'm land lording. The home has a second story balcony attached to a bedroom. This balcony has a loose-ish railing and a semi-soft spot in the corner. Because of this liability, I don't want anyone on the balcony. The lease says: 

"Second floor balcony may only be used as an emergency exit. Landlord is not responsible for any injuries sustained by Tenant or guests of Tenant as a result of the emergency exit being used."

Within days of signing the lease, the tenant sent me a video of themselves on the balcony pointing to the spot and saying there is a soft spot and that I need to fix it ASAP.

Am I obligated to fix this if they've signed a lease addendum with the above-referenced language?

Again, I'm new to the real estate game so I'm open to any feedback or constructive criticism.

Thanks,

Mike

@Mike Cartwright I am not an attorney, but I would send them a reply referencing the section of the lease where they are not allowed to use this except for emergencies. That by being on the balcony to take that video is a violation of the lease they signed and agreed to.

That said, how will it cost to just fix?

Is there other emergency exists available where you could put a deadbolt that has a key on both sides of this door?

May want to check with local authorities (code enforcement maybe) to see if this is a legal option.

Thanks for the reply. I'm not sure how much it will cost to fix frankly. Being my first property I was hoping to keep costs to a minimum (within reason of course) and I wouldn't see any value added to rent by fixing it. 

My inexperience is showing here, do normal/large windows count as emergency exits on a second floor? The first floor has 3 exterior door exits (patio door included).

You have a point though, I'll get some quotes. Maybe I'll be surprised.

Thanks again for the feedback @John Underwood

First of all, your lease clause is most likely going to mean nothing if someone got hurt on the balcony. You will still get sued, and I am having trouble believing you will win, even though you are technically right.

If I were in your shoes, I would get it fixed, or put a lock on the balcony door so they cannot go out there.

Thanks for the replies. I'm waiting to hear back from my building code department to see how to comply with local code regarding preventing access to the balcony. At that point I can either fix it if the price is doable or hold off until I have additional cash reserves.

I would definitely fix that.  Suppose a guest, or worse - a child, were to make their way out to that second floor balcony and fall through the railing that you knew was faulty and get seriously injured. Do you think the guest or the child would reasonably have been expected to have read your disclaimer in the tenant's lease that they're not to use the balcony and you're not responsible for their injuries? 

You're lucky you have the opportunity to fix this before anyone has been hurt.  Being a landlord costs money.  This is not the time to be cheap.  Spend a few hundred bucks and fix this potential accident/lawsuit waiting to happen.

@Kyle J. yes, I see your point. Properly preventing access to it is my first priority after thinking about it more. Then taking care of it.

Just to be clear for posterity, the floor isn't meaningfully compromised and the rail has a little give. None the less, better to protect the tenant (and myself legally).

@Kyle J. I agree completely . Just because it’s in the lease doesn’t mean someone will read that lease that 9 times out ten the tenant loses or throws away anyhow . If someone falls and gets crippled or dies the insurance isn’t going to care if you added some wording to your lease . You could lose everything you own over a dumb 300$ fix because you wanted to cheap out . Now there is video proof it is faulty and that can be used in court . My ex mother in law had a entrance awning that was in need of repair over here house she rented she warned the people multiple times . One day it let loose when she was coming home it fell on her back and left her unable to work or stand for long periods . The landlord was court ordered and paid out over 60 thousand dollars