Landlord Liability Issues to Look Out for

Lee Blackburn

As a landlord, you are responsible for your tenant’s safety when they are on your rental premises. In Nashville, you have a legal obligation to carry out some responsibilities to ensure that your tenants can live in a habitable home. Failure to fulfill these responsibilities may cause your tenants or their guests to get injured, creating a possibility of tenants suing you for negligence. 

To protect yourself from such liabilities, you need to ensure that you correctly follow the Tennessee landlord-tenant obligations, especially first-time investors who are often unaware of their responsibilities. Here is a list of some liability issues that Nashville landlords need to look for –  

Pet Liabilities

While allowing pets into your rental home can be a good gesture and offer access to a larger pool of tenants, it comes with several liability issues. Studies show that dogs like the American pit bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, or American Bulldog can be dangerous in residential neighborhoods. Several local dog breed ordinances in Tennessee require the owners of specific dog breeds to have a permit. Some areas also have restrictions disallowing pets of dangerous breeds. Hence, many landlords have policies restricting specific breeds or completely disallowing pets. 

Pets can be a bigger issue if you own a multi-family property. Other tenants may have allergies or may suffer injuries from the pet in common areas. If one of your tenants has an aggressive dog that gets unlatched accidentally, there’s a possibility that it may cause harm and panic among the other tenant families on the same property. 

Therefore, if you allow pets, you must have a strict pet policy that clearly defines that pet owners are responsible for any damages or injuries that their pets may cause. Renters in multi-family units should inform all the other tenants verbally and in writing if any pets are present on the property.

Habitability Issues

As per the Implied Warranty of Habitability, landlords are expected to ensure that their rental home is structurally intact and meets the standards of local building codes. As a Nashville landlord, you need to provide your tenants with a habitable rental worthy of being occupied. You should also provide them with basic facilities like – 

  • Hot water supply
  • Filtered and drinkable water
  • Functional bathrooms and toilets
  • Proper ventilation systems 
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Additionally, you must ensure that the home is free from mold, pests, or bugs. Conditions like pest or rat infestations or lead-based paint in the house can have an adverse effect on the human body. If any insects, rodents, or other pests get found on the rental premises, you must inform the tenants in the rental agreement under ‘Important Disclosures.’ To make sure that the home is habitable and free from such hazards, you are required to conduct routine inspections and promptly resolve these issues. 

Intentional Damage by Irresponsible Tenants

You need to make sure that your tenants are adhering to the terms on the lease and are keeping your Nashville rental in a good condition. Therefore, you need to occasionally check if the renters are using the appliances, systems, and furniture carefully. Make sure that they follow your guest policy and pet policy. 

If your tenant is irresponsible, breaks the lease terms, and is creating trouble for the neighbors, you need to reevaluate the terms of your agreement. 

Accidental Tenant Injuries

Ideally, if there are any maintenance issues like a broken window, or a chipped tile, which might lead to accidental injuries, you must get them fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you are also required to inform the tenants about the damages. If the tenants slip or fall and get hurt due to a lack of knowledge about the damages, you could be liable for the injuries and may have to pay for their medical expenses. Worst case scenario, if the injuries are severe, it could even lead to a lawsuit for negligence of the property. Hence, we highly recommend landlords prioritize maintenance issues and never neglect such damages. 

Criminal Activities on the Premises or in the Neighborhood

Protecting your tenants against any criminal acts in or around the property is one of your primary responsibilities. You can prevent a liability issue by taking a few of the following measures and ensuring increased security for your renters, such as:  

  • If someone in your neighborhood has a criminal history or your neighborhood and has a high crime rate, inform your tenants about the necessary safety precautions they need to take
  • Ensure that the security lights, alarms, and door locks are in a working condition
  • Respond to your tenants’ urgent calls
  • Install surveillance cameras, lights, and smart doorbells 

If you do not pay close attention to the security of the property, you could be unintentionally compromising your tenants’ safety, which can be a potential cause for liability issues. 

How Can a Professional Property Manager Help With Liability Issues for Your Nashville Rental?

property managers

Managing your Nashville rental by yourself can be overwhelming, especially if you are a new landlord and have trouble keeping track of landlord liabilities. The smallest negligence on your rental premises can be grounds for a liability and, in most cases, actual negligence does not need to be proven. This requires you to keep the unit habitable and tenant-friendly at all times, which is no easy task.

Consider hiring a qualified property management company in Nashville that knows the local obligations and can conduct regular assessments to understand if you are fulfilling all your responsibilities. They can also help you draft an airtight lease that protects you from any liability issues. 

One such trusted property management company is Omni Realtors and Property Management. Since 2005, we have been helping Nashville landlords fulfill their responsibilities and protecting them from legal issues. We are happy to help you understand any liability issues you may face and take every step carefully to make your journey as a landlord peaceful and stress-free. 

For more information, contact us at Omni Realtors and Property Management.