Owning a Sacramento rental property comes with several challenges and responsibilities. As a rental owner, you have to deal with several issues, which can end up in a lawsuit if not handled properly. Therefore, being aware of such potential issues is the first step towards making sure that you avoid them. With experience, you can easily ensure minimum liability for your unit.
For new rental owners though, here are a few landlord liability issues to look out for.
1. Tenant Injuries
As a landlord, it is your duty to protect your tenant from getting injured while they are within the premises of your unit. If they do get injured, you will be held liable due to causes like your negligence in property maintenance or the use of cheap construction material. You will also have to pay the costs associated with the injuries. To prevent this, you can install bright lighting, provide accessibility to renters and remove obstacles. You can also take additional precautionary steps to avoid tenant injuries on rental premises.
- Conduct regular property inspections
- Carry routine maintenance on the property
- Get landlord’s insurance
- Perform timely repairs
2. Breach of Habitability
According to California’s landlord-tenant law, you are responsible for maintaining the habitability of the rental premises and providing safe housing. Therefore, as the landlord, you need to check the structural integrity of your house, keep the common areas clean, and prevent mold and pest infestations. If your tenants claim that they have found something life-threatening in your rental property, you will be held liable for any resulting damages and accidental injuries.
3. Criminal Activities
As the landlord, you should prevent your tenants from performing any illegal or criminal activities on the premises of your Sacramento rental. In addition, you are also responsible for the safety of your tenants if your property is located in an area with a high crime rate. If your tenant does not feel safe on your property, they might hold you liable and file a case against you for failing to protect them from any criminal activities in the area.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure your property is safe –
- Install an advanced security system on the property and inspect it regularly
- Comply with laws that protect renters like providing enough lighting, securing entrances like doors and windows with digital locks
- Act immediately on any suspicious activity that happens on the premises
- Inform the police and ask your tenants to be alert in case of frequent criminal activities in the neighborhood
- Trim bushes and trees to increase visibility around the house
4. Legal Non-Disclosures
The federal, state, and local laws require landlords to add disclosure in a lease agreement to expose certain information to tenants. You also need to disclose details about other things that may cause harm to the occupants of your unit, such as:
- Existence of lead-based paint on the property
- Security deposit policy that outlines the return period, interest, and other details
- Whether you will charge non-refundable fees, like cleaning
- Existing damage to the property
- Presence of mold and pest
- Shared utility arrangements
- Maintenance of smoke detectors and air filters
- Information about sexual offenders’ databases and theft
Under California’s fair housing law, a landlord can be held liable for discriminating against tenants based on their race, color, family background, disability, gender, and nationality. You cannot break this law under any circumstance, which means that you cannot discriminate against people and will have to treat everyone fairly. The tenant has a right to sue you if they experience discriminatory behavior in your rental. Therefore, ensure that you follow this law by following a fair and regulated tenant screening process.
5. Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke is considered a violation of the implied warranty of habitability. It can cause breathing issues among your tenants and be a nuisance. Tenants with disabilities may also sue you for not providing safe housing under the Disabilities Act. Therefore, it is advisable to ban smoking around your property and add a smoking-zones policy in your lease agreement. If your previous tenants were smokers, ensure that you get rid of any lingering odors before your new tenants visit the house.
6. Presence of Pests
Landlords are responsible for providing pest-free housing to their tenants. If a new tenant moves in and finds a house infested with pests, like bed bugs, you may be liable for their extermination. Additionally, the tenants might also sue you for violating the warranty of habitability. Therefore, it is necessary to be proactive and document everything you do to prevent pest infestation, such as –
- Getting the place inspected by a licensed pest control company and collecting an inspection report
- Adding a provision that requires synthetic covers on beds and mattresses
- Informing tenants about the presence of bed bugs and steps followed to stop them.
- Contact pest controllers the minute you feel the presence of bed bugs on the property.
7. Allowing Pets on the Premises
Pet animals, like dogs, can also be a liability if you own a rental property. There are several risks associated with allowing dogs on the property. If you allow dogs on your rental premises, you may be held liable if the dog bites someone, especially if they have done this before. You can add a few rules to the lease to protect yourself from liabilities related to pet behavior. Here are some of those –
- Schedule meetings with dogs to know their behavior
- Use pet screening services to check dogs’ history
- Encourage renters to get insurance for liability coverage
- Put the dog on a leash when outside or in a designated pet area
- Decide the breed of pets as some areas ban specific breeds
8. Insurance Protection
Property insurance covers landlords against financial expenses and liabilities that might incur with rental units. You may also want to protect the house from damage during unexpected events like earthquakes and floods and ensure the insurance covers the total value of your building. Therefore, it is necessary to select an inclusive insurance policy that will cover all items on your property.
One of the effective ways to prevent liabilities in your Sacramento rental is by hiring a property management company like Eagle Property Management. We can monitor and tackle all liability issues and protect you from facing legal scenarios. Our team of experts can help you understand the risks and responsibilities of owning rental property and help manage your tenants effectively.
For more information, contact us at Eagle Property Management.