As a property manager, it’s necessary for you to protect your tenants from criminal actions and activities. If your tenant has a dangerous drug or runs drugs from your property, you could be held liable for those actions. While laws vary, here are some things you could be considered liable for as many property management companies in DC would advise.
Drugs and Other Criminal Acts
While you are not expected to police your tenants or spy on them, if you become aware of criminal activity and allow it to continue on your property, you could be held accountable for tenants’ actions. By knowingly allowing a tenant to create or sell drugs, you risk either criminal or civil charges; penalties vary depending on where you live but in most states, you will be held at least somewhat responsible for tenant actions. Good screening and background checks can help cut the risk of getting a criminal tenant; knowing what is going on at each of your properties can also help you be aware of any potential issues and provides the opportunity to act as needed to protect yourself.
Failing to Protect Tenants
Your tenants may not engage in criminal activity, but if you fail to properly provide a secure home for your residents, you could be held responsible for their injuries and damages. Make sure any home you provide is up to date on all codes, fully equipped with fire safety items, and has the appropriate level of security — including exterior lighting and good-quality deadbolt locks. Changing the locks after each tenant no longer lives in your property is a must as well, since you could be exposing current tenants to added risk by allowing previous tenants a way to access the home.
If your tenant owns a dog that is dangerous and it harms someone else, you could be held liable for damages. Depending on where you live, your tenant could be in violation of breed legislation — allowing a banned breed to live on your property could expose you to litigation and other penalties.
Even dogs that are not outright banned can cause significant harm if they are not well trained or if they continue to live on your property after they have been identified as a dangerous animal. If the dog has already injured or bitten someone and it stays on your property, you could be held responsible if the dog bites again.
While dogs cause most animal injuries, other, more exotic animals can also cause injury possibly resulting in a costly lawsuit. Having a clear pet policy, actually seeing the resident pets for yourself, and confirming that they do not appear to pose a risk to others will help you mitigate risk. Good tenant screening can help as well; if you find that potential tenants have moved a lot or that they had issues in the past because of their pets, you will be better able to anticipate a problem.
Putting the right tenants in place at the start can help reduce or eliminate your risk, and taking prompt action when you discover a problem is essential, as well. By being proactive about crime and tenant safety, you protect the community from harm and reduce the chances you’re charged for the poor choices of your tenant.