8 Routine Property Safety Checks for Landlords
Keeping Your Tenants Safe
Protecting the safety of your tenants is incredibly important for landlords. There are simple checks that you can do to your rental property to make sure everything is working properly and that there are no obvious hazards. Here are eight routine safety checks every landlord should perform.
1. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Your rental property is equipped with electricity, and in many cases, gas.
Therefore, there is always the potential for a fire or for a gas leak. To help alert tenants of potential problems, the landlord-tenant law requires working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all apartments.
These detectors are not something you can simply install and then forget about. You must do routine inspections of all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are still in place and that they are functioning.
- Appropriate Number and Placement
Your state, and in many cases, local government, will have specific rules for the number and exact placement of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your rental property. At the very least, these detectors are usually required to be installed within 15 feet of a bedroom. There may be additional requirements for detectors in building common areas and in mechanical rooms. You need to walk through your rental property, ideally every month, and if not, at least four times a year, to make sure all detectors you installed are still in place.
- Working Properly
You should check to make sure all of your detectors are working correctly once a month. If the detectors are battery operated, you should replace the batteries twice a year. It is helpful to change the batteries at the same time that we set the clocks ahead in the spring and behind in the fall.
Depending on the size of your rental, you may be required to have hard-wired detectors on your property. Do not just assume these detectors work because they have a direct electrical connection. These detectors still need to be checked as often as battery-powered detectors to make sure the device or the connection has not malfunctioned. Hardwired detectors also have a backup battery in case of a power outage, so this battery needs to be changed periodically.
2. Exterior and Common Area Lights
Another routine check landlords must perform at their rental property is to make sure all common area lights are working. It can be very dangerous if a light in the stairway or hallway is not working because a tenant could easily slip and fall. You should let your tenants know to contact you immediately if a light in a common area is not working.
The same holds true for any exterior lights leading to the property. Not only could a tenant trip if there is not adequate lighting, but it could also be a safety hazard because a robber could use the cover of dark to break into the rental or victimize the tenant.
3. Working Locks
A third safety check is to make sure the locks on all exterior and entrance doors are working.
You do not want anyone to be able to access any area of the property where they do not belong. If someone is able to enter your property because you do not have the proper security, and they do harm, you could be liable.
Check for any loose door hinges or handles. When the door is locked, you will want to push on it to see if it can still easily open.
All the doors should also be equipped with a deadbolt. It is much harder to break into a door with a deadbolt than it is to break into just a normal lock and key.
4. Exits — 2 Forms of Egress
It is very important that all tenants have two forms of exit out of their apartment in the event of an emergency. You need to make sure that neither of these forms of exit is blocked.
It is not unusual for a tenant to try to create more usable space in their apartment and put a table, desk or dresser in front of a door or window.
Tenants may also pile up garbage near the back door of a common area, making it difficult or impossible to open.
You should check the common area exits at least once a month. It will not be as easy to gain access to a tenant’s apartment, but you should request access periodically to check safety issues such as this.
5. Fire Escapes
If your rental property has an actual fire escape, you need to verify that it is safe. Look for any signs of rust. Make sure it is firmly attached to the building. Make sure the ladder easily extends.
You will also want to make sure that any windows leading to the fire escape can easily be opened in an emergency. For daily life, you want to make sure the lock on the window is working correctly to deter any intruders from easily entering the property from the fire escape.
6. Window Guards
Some states require windows to have window guards to protect children from falling out. You will want to check your local landlord tenant laws to determine if this is a requirement in your area based on the size of your rental property and the age of the children living in the property.
If window guards are required, you must check to make sure the tenants have not removed any of these guards. You will also want to check that the guards are installed securely with no loose screws or wobbly window frames. You can do these checks when the tenant renews their lease.
You want to make sure any stair banisters are secure. The last thing you want is for a tenant to grab a banister that gives way, resulting in a fall.
You should test all railings at your rental property and make sure they do not wobble or come apart from the wall. A great time to do this check could be when you pick up the rent.
8. Heating Units
It is the responsibility of a landlord to make sure tenants are able to heat their unit when the temperatures drop. Your boiler or furnace should be serviced every year. The unit will be checked for any leaks and any signs of deterioration.
Even if the boiler is working, if the thermostat is battery powered and the battery dies, the tenant’s heat will not work. You should, therefore, change the batteries in the thermostat at the same time you change the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.