Real estate is a great way to turn capital into income, but make sure you’re putting the appropriate effort into your responsibilities as a landlord. Certain mistakes can leave you deep in hot water – and not all of them are strictly outlined in property codes.
1) Dangerous conditions
There are any number of potentially dangerous conditions on your property which may ultimately leave you liable for any resulting injuries. Putting aside flagrant violations of building codes and other hard regulations, you also expose yourself to liability if there are dangers which you are aware of and leave unchecked, or even if there are dangers which you should have been aware of. A walkway which people frequently stumble over could leave you liable if you don’t correct it, for example. This makes inspections of your properties very important, as ignorance can be more of an indictment than a defense.
2) Inadequate upkeep of security devices
Texas law is very clear on the requirements for security devices on residential property. Your locksmith can consult you in this regard. Not only is there a list of mandatory security devices which all rental homes must have, tenants can request any number of updates to keys and additions to security devices, some at your expense and others at their own – failure to meet any of these requests can leave you liable if burglary, injury, or other problems result. This includes changing locks, both between tenants and by request. Generally speaking, all doors need to feature in some combination both a key lock and a deadbolt; the exact requirements and obligations vary by entrance type and existing installation. Sliding doors also need locks or bars, and windows must have locks.
3) Problem tenants
It may surprise you to realize that you can be left exposed by leaving problematic tenants in your properties if they cause damage to others. This includes the well-known situations, such as liability for a dog attack from a dog the landlord knew to be aggressive, but also includes various criminal behaviors, nuisance behaviors, and other antisocial behaviors. If you get regular complaints about your tenants and don’t act upon them, or you miss an obvious danger because you’re not doing walk-throughs from time to time, you could be held liable for the results.
As you can see, it’s not enough to just tick off a few checkboxes at the beginning of a tenancy and then walk away until the next tenant comes along. You need to stay alert to the state of your property and continuously meet your obligations. Anything else may very well expose you.
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