This article was posted on Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

It’s almost inevitable that property managers will experience resident negligence that leads to unintended damage to the unit.  Although residents may think that they are engaged in innocent actions, property managers may wonder “What the heck was that resident thinking?” after coming across the by-products of these actions. 

Further, your net operating income is likely to be directly and adversely affected by residents’ negligence that leads to flooding, smoke damage or fires.  Property managers can avoid the expensive repercussions of these “goofs” by being proactive.

It’s important to have policies clearly stated on the premises and in the lease concerning these risks and to warn your residents in advance about these concerns.  Some suggested warnings, based on common negligence-related accidents are as follows – they relate to water, smoke and fire, which all have a negative impact on your operation and residents’ quality of life. 

  1. Absolutely no clothing should be hung from the sprinkler lines; this runs the risk of setting them off or damaging them – which in turn will flood the unit.
  2. When mopping or cleaning up behind the toilet, be aware of the water supply line; if damaged, this can flood your unit and/or the unit below.
  3. Defrosting that holiday turkey?  Don’t forget that you left it in the sink with tepid water running over it.  That blocked sink will overflow and flood the apartment.
  4. When the municipality shuts down a water main, you must shut off all your faucets before leaving the apartment; otherwise, the unit can easily flood when that water service comes back on.
  5. Toilets are for toilet paper and human waste, nothing else.  Diapers and feminine products are leading causes of sewer backups and unpleasant interior messes.
  6. DIY (do-it-yourself) doesn’t cut it when installing a personal washing machine in your unit; hire a professional plumber to hook up the water hose.
  7. Laptop computers overheat easily when air flow is restricted.  Don’t leave a laptop unattended on the bed for long periods of time.  Overheated laptops can catch fire.
  8. Don’t fry a frozen turkey in hot oil IN your apartment; this will cause a dangerous grease fire and thwart your dinner plans.
  9. Cigarette butts belong in ash trays, not in potted plants, waste baskets or on countertops where they can smolder and cause a fire or smoke damage.
  10. Cooking while intoxicated may also lead to fires; you could forget something’s cooking on the stove, get sloppy with cooking oil or worse, pass out.
  11. Before you light your fireplace, remember to open the damper to allow for property ventilation.
  12. Technology can be highly distracting so avoid texting when you are cooking, turning on your fireplace or cleaning around your plumbing.  That message can wait.By requiring residents to participate in a property damage loss waiver (PDLW™) program, you transfer the risk associated with these resident–caused accidents to the resident.  Although you can receive payment directly to cover the cleanup and repair expenses, the best solution is to prevent these situations from happening in the first place.

    Make your residents acutely aware of the risk in advance and have adequate protections in place to handle these emergencies when or if they arise.

    Paul J. Kaliades is president of Renters Legal Liability LLC (RLL™), a provider of Renters Legal Liability® Property Damage Loss Waiver.  For more information, visit or contact [email protected] or 800-700-9660.  Renters Legal Liability® is a registered mark of Renters Legal Liability LLC.

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