Owning a residential rental property is first and foremost aninvestment. And like any investment, its success depends ongenerating income, or in other words, its ability to attracttenants. With more than 108 million renters in the U.S. and over 22million landlords according to the Rental Protection Agency, it’seasy to see why property owners and landlords need to identifypotential hazards for tenants and guests, and address themaccordingly.

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The National Multifamily Housing Council says more than 43million households or 35% are renter-occupied. The largest segmentof renters, 17%, are 30 years of age or younger. The cities withthe largest number of renters include: New York, N.Y.; Los Angeles,Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa.; andPhoenix, Ariz. The majority of renters (43%) live insingle-family homes and 35% of renters live in structures with fiveor more units.

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Nothing attracts and retains renters like a reputation for beinga safe and secure place to live. Successful landlords and theirproperty managers know that maintaining safe premises is an ongoingprocess of reducing risk. The following 10 practices serve as agood starting place.

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Front entrance

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1. Doors

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All entry doors, whether at common entrances or individualapartments, should be of solid wood construction or steel, and anyglass panels should be reinforced and shatterproof.

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Locksmith

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2. Locks

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A deadbolt lock should secure each apartment door and be changedor re-keyed when a tenant moves. In addition, a door chain allowstenants to see who's at the door without completely opening it. Apeephole is even better. Windows should also have workinglocks.

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Outdoor lighting

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3. Appropriate Lighting

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Dark areas not only invite crime, they frighten tenants. Indoorhallways should be well lit at all times. LED bulbs provideexcellent light. Floodlights along paths, parking areas and garbagedisposal areas can be controlled by timers or sensors to providelighting from dusk to dawn. Less-visited spots such as storageareas can be connected to motion-detector lights to saveenergy.

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security cameras

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4. Security Cameras

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Mounting security cameras in public areas not only gives tenantsa sense of security, but deters vandalism as well. There should bea mix of camera types to best monitor targeted areas:

  • PTZ (pan tilt zoom) for large areas like walkways, swimmingpools or parking lots.
  • Fixed cameras for enclosed areas such as front and backentrances, as well as elevators, mailbox areas and stairwells.
  • Day/night cameras for outdoor areas that get round-the-clockfoot traffic or indoor areas where lights are dimmedovernight.

Cameras protect the landlord in liability cases as well, sincethey can capture a fall or accident and confirm whether or not theproperty contributed to the incident.

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Intercom

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5. Intercoms

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In a multi-dwelling property with a main locked main entry, amulti-line intercom at the entrance allows tenants to communicatewith anyone who rings the bell before allowing them access into thebuilding. Some systems have built-in cameras for addedsecurity.

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Several additional measures that will complement these riskmanagement practices include:

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Background check

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6. Prospective Tenant Screening

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Not all crime comes from outside of the building. A landlord orproperty manager should diligentlyscreen prospective tenants to make sure they arelaw-abiding individuals who will pay their rent, respect the rightsof their fellow tenants and will not damage the property. Inaddition to an interview, candidates should fill out an applicationin which they give the following information to enable a credit andbackground check.

  • Current employment
  • Income information
  • Current and former landlord contact information
  • Personal references

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Rental contract

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7. Rental Contract

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Sometimes evictions are necessary. Sooner or later anirresponsible tenant will disturb the neighbors, destroy or damagethe property, or fail to pay the rent. To protect themselves andmake the eviction process flow smoothly, landlords should requirea signedrental contract spelling out both landlord and tenantresponsibilities and grounds for eviction.

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Since a signed and dated agreement will serve as a legaldocument in what could be a long eviction process, all rentalcontracts should be stored in a fireproof, locked file or safe.

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Pet policy

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8. Pet Policy

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Pet-friendly landlords should include apet agreement in the rental contract, since pets ofirresponsible owners can damage property, spread disease, and annoyor harm other tenants. The agreement should be specific as to:

  • Number of animals allowed per unit
  • Types and breeds allowed
  • Weight limit
  • Specific reasons why a tenant can be asked to remove theanimal

Non-pet owners should be required to sign the agreement as wellin case they acquire a pet after establishing residency.

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Insurance policy

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9. Proper Insurance Coverage

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Even with all these strategies in place, disasters still occur.Landlords should ensure that they have the property insurance withappropriate coverage limits. At a minimum, the policy shouldinclude the following coverage:

  • Property damage
  • Liability
  • Loss of rental income/business interruption
  • Flood insurance
  • Premises liability

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Smoke detector

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10. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

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No list of landlord precautions would be complete without smokeand carbon monoxide detectors. Manystates require them, but regardless, any responsible landlordor property manager will make sure each unit contains functioningdetectors and accessible fire extinguishers in common areas.

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Appropriate risk management strategies protect the tenants andthe property owner, providing a safer environment for all in whichto live and work.

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