From a real estate investor’s point of view, apartment complexes are one of the safest and most profitable options for long term earnings. They offer the opportunity to create wealth, provide a stable source of passive income and they can mark the beginning of a very lucrative real estate career. However, when investing in apartment complexes, it can be easy to get lost in technical or financial details and overlook one incredibly important thing: the tenant’s safety. Personal injury in apartment complexes is a delicate matter, financially, legally, and emotionally and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it can end your career in real estate. When a tenant is hurt on your property because of your negligence, you can be held legally liable and have to pay damages, so before thinking about long term profit or return on investment, first you should ask yourself these questions:
- Is the property that I’m renting safe for tenants?
- What can I do to prevent safety hazards in my apartment complex?
Taking the time to address potential safety hazards will give you peace of mind and avoid the unpleasant scenario of a lawsuit.
What is landlord negligence?
Just because a tenant slipped and fell in your apartment complex does not automatically make your liable in a personal injury case. In order for this to happen, the tenant must prove that there was negligence. What does it mean?
As the landlord in an apartment complex, you are in charge with keeping the property safe for tenants and visitors. The legal term for this is maintaining an appropriate standard of care and means that you have to make sure the property is free from hazards. For example:
- Factors outside the building, such as uneven sidewalks or inadequate building security. You can also be held liable if the entrance in the apartment complex is slippery or if debris is falling off the building.
- Factors inside the building, such as hallways, entrances, staircases or any object situated on hallways that cannot be moved, such as large bookcases, statues and so on. You are also responsible for plumbing and electrical work, mold and rodent infestations.
- Factors inside the apartment, such as furniture, flooring, walls, fixtures, windows and bathroom units.
Proving negligence can be quite complicated and misunderstandings occur at the fine line between tenant and landlord responsibility. It’s always a good idea to establish this in advance. For example, if the tenant fell on the stairs because they were inadequately built, that’s negligence. However, if you are out of town and the tenant slipped and fell because there was a drink spilled on the stairs, you are not liable.
What happens if a tenant gets hurt on your property?
If a tenant gets hurt on your property and they have reason to believe it was because of your negligence, they can talk to an apartment complexes injury lawyer and commence the legal proceedings to obtain financial compensation for the injuries they sustained. These are called damages and, depending on the type and severity of the accident, you could cover things such as:
- Cost of emergency room care
- Ambulance costs
- Hospital bills
- Costs for any additional therapy sessions required after the accident
- Moral damages for the emotional distress that the victim had to go through
- In case the tenant was injured severely in the accident and have lost their ability to work, you may be asked to pay compensation for future lost wages.
- In the worst cases scenario where the victim dies, the landlord can be sued by the tenant’s family and pay extensive damages.
Paying damages to the victim after an accident that occurred in your apartment complex can be costlier than you expect. Depending on the severity of the accident, you can be left financially crippled, you can lose your credibility and risk losing tenants. For example, if one of your tenants was injured after a rat infestation, others may want to leave and your reputation will be destroyed.
Checking your apartment complex for safety hazards is the right thing to do, both morally and financially. Although working with an inspector will cost you, the price isn’t nearly as high compared to being the defendant in a personal injury case.
In addition to inspections, take the time to talk to your tenants about your property. If you don’t live in the city or don’t drop by your complex too often, you might not notice some safety hazards that occur only occasionally. Ask the tenants to fill you in on the most common safety issues they experience and try to fix them because they become too difficult to manage. It can save you a lot of trouble and you will earn your tenants’ respect for being actively involved in their safety. Last, but don’t least, always have good legal counsel to count on. Even when you put a lot of effort into enhancing a property, accidents can still happen and the right attorney can help you avoid a lot of stress.