You own and operate a property management company in California.  You have your license, you’ve done the training, you’ve provided excellent service to your clients, and built your business…but, you’re concerned aren’t you?  What if something goes wrong?  What if there is a fire? What about deferred maintenance? Am I doing everything I can and should do for the houses and buildings that I manage? Am I exposed to litigation?  These concerns are real and they should cause you a moment of pause.  

For example, an appellate court in California affirmed a lower court’s judgment for $29 million against a property management company and property owner for a lawsuit based on the negligent performance of property management services at an apartment complex.   

The insured, a licensed real estate broker, provided property management services for an apartment complex.  During its tenure as property manager, a fire in one of the apartments killed five people.  The survivors of the decedents sued the property manager and the owner of the apartment complex for wrongful death, alleging negligence in the maintenance and control of the apartment and failure to keep the property in a safe condition. The “trial by reference” resulted in judgment against the property manager and owner for $29 million.  The property manager was found 90% at fault.

So what steps can a property management company take to prevent fires in order to protect the tenants, the owner, and the company?  

  • First of all, the property management company must comply with new laws which require the company to “inspect and maintain” all smoke alarms.  If your client owns a multi-unit residential property or a single family residence (“SFR”) rental property, they are required to install, maintain and test smoke alarms on their property. [Health & S C §13113.7(d)(2)]  Although there is no specific timing requirement, this should be done, at minimum, annually.  An “Inspection and Maintenance Log” should be performed and kept in the file for that building and client.  
  • Second and often overlooked, the property management company should ensure annual cleaning of dryer vent lines. Buildings with active laundry rooms may even consider more frequent cleanings.  Dryer vent fires are a leading cause of SFR and multi-family fires in the United States.  They are easily preventable by annual cleaning. An annual inspection of the premises or “walk through” should also be conducted to ensure adequate spacing of furnaces/wall heaters from combustible items.

Although there are many additional steps that can be taken, these should be instituted immediately.

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Historically, there has never been a “one call does it all” solution to many of these problems.  Dryer vent line cleaning and the performance of smoke/carbon monoxide alarm “Inspection and Maintenance Logs” are just a few of the 18 point annual property maintenance service we recommend.  Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  Don’t wait until it is too late.  

Visit or call 1 (888) SMILE11 to start providing the highest standard of care to your tenants and clients.  You’ll be glad you did.  Smile…It’s done!