Are you aware of Premises Liability? Make Sure You Don't Cost Your Company Thousands, If Not Millions of Dollars
by Elizabeth Whited
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
There are certain precautions that most apartment communities, as well as individual landlords and owners can take to avoid slip and fall accidents, but what about when it comes to the human aspect of premises liability? Everyone would like to assume that where they live and work is a safe place, but if the proper steps have not been taken to protect residents and staff from convicted felons, sex offenders, sex traffickers, and gang members, then your company may be at a huge risk for a premises liability lawsuit.
Whether or not you currently have liability insurance to cover any issues that may arise, make sure to properly screen your residents to help avoid these types of situations from happening. As an example, how do you check the identity of your applicants? What if they provide you with a fake social security number? Do you screen for Social Security Number Validation? One loophole that criminals are able to get through is by finding someone with qualifying credit, who rents on their behalf. These folks typically seem like the ideal candidate for an apartment community – no convictions, good paying job, and usually a good credit score.
For example: "Martha," is a new applicant at your complex, who has a very sweet personality, and charming demure. She fills out the application, and signs the lease at your apartment community, and you are excited to lease such a quality resident. Over the next few months, you never actually see "Martha" around, and assume she prefers to spend most of her time inside. When maintenance knocks on the door for a routine check a few weeks later, they discover that "Martha" does not live there, and instead a young man answers the door. You later come to find out that the young man is a convicted felon, who is unauthorized to live in the apartment, and "Martha" is nowhere to be found. If this has ever happened to you before, this is an example of a proxy renter situation. There are certain Incident Reporting Websites out there that are able to track instances of folks like "Martha" or proxy renters that you wouldn't be able to track with typical resident screening services.
Another common issue is miscommunication, or lack of communication between managers/landlords and their residents. In the case of Melissa Dorner, the 21-year old who was raped and murdered in her apartment building by a resident at the same complex, the Property Management Company failed to properly inform residents of the seriousness of a previous attempted assault a few months earlier, which happened to be by that same resident. The jury awarded the Dorner family $10 million dollars, 90 % to be paid by Roberto Ramirez, the convicted criminal, and 10 % to be paid by the Management Company and Owner.
The Dorner Family's Attorney Colin Dunn believed more could have been done to prevent the attack. "Had the management company followed its own policies and procedures in screening prospective tenants, Ramirez would never have been in the building." (Esposito & Donovan, 2012)
You have a maintenance staff to keep the property up to code, so make sure that your leasing staff is also doing its part to make the community as safe as they possibly can. To fully protect your communities and your business, make sure to screen your residents. If you are already doing so, make sure to fully understand what you are receiving in your reports, and research companies that offer more in the way of keeping track of those untraceable tenants.
|Elizabeth Whited is the Operations Coordinator at the The Rent Rite Directory®. The company was started by Joe Killinger and George Pino of Learning Links Centers (a socially responsible Real Estate Investment Company). What started as a blog for Property Managers and Individual Owners to track proxy renters, people that skip, or have had evictions filed against them, and tenants that commit on-property crime and damage, soon transformed into the site you see today. The Incident Reporting portion of the site is, and always will be free, supported by their comprehensive and affordable Tenant Screening Services. For more information, visit: www.TheRRD.com.|
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