Liability issues can cause commercial property owners significant financial loss. It almost always stems from negligence, so follow these 14 strategies to avoid culpability.
1. Get Relevant Insurance
Most business owners can benefit from general liability insurance. It covers defense costs, injury damages and medical bills when somebody gets hurt within the commercial property’s premises. This financial product complements workers’ compensation insurance, which is mandatory in most states.
Landlord insurance policies protect lessors from death and injury claims. Even homeowners who rent out their houses irregularly may need to purchase one to cover losses if something happens to tenants and visitors.
All standard insurance policies have limits. They may be sufficient to meet the state’s minimum requirements but provide inadequate protection for losses. A business owner may need commercial umbrella insurance to cover the gap. This optional product increases the liability limit and expands the coverage.
2. Screen Tenants Carefully
Choosing upstanding tenants lowers the risk commercial real estate owners face. Landlords prone to letting in renters with a criminal past should be particularly mindful.
Using tenant screening services is an affordable way to identify sketchy prospective lessees. Those who own multiple doors should consider using a property manager to handle this crucial task competently and legally deny housing to potential liabilities.
3. Be Ready for Fire
A commercial property equipped to put out a fire and help occupants exit the burning building safely is absolvable. Doing the following is the key to complying with fire codes:
- Ensuring functional emergency lighting
- Having enough fully charged and properly classified fire extinguishers
- Installing a property-appropriate sprinkler system
- Using riser rooms exclusively for fire protection equipment storage
- Maintaining the electrical system
- Getting certified technicians to test smoke detectors and fire alarms regularly
- Observing proper recordkeeping of fire safety system maintenance
- Keeping exit doors, passageways, fire department connections and valves unblocked all the time
One fire code violation can be grounds for liability, so prevent noncompliance at all costs.
4. Control Property Access
Managing and monitoring who goes in and out of the property matters to keep all authorized building users safe and healthy. Consider fencing the building’s vicinity for added security and privacy.
Buying advanced security locks is one of the best ways to deny access to unauthorized individuals. Biometric access controls and keyless entry systems are reliable. They help enforce proper offboarding.
These smart technologies are easily reprogrammable and prevent disgruntled former employees from barging into commercial property premises and harming others.
5. Install a Security System
Surveillance equipment in strategic locations can discourage anyone with bad intentions from committing crimes. A decoy system can be just as effective as a deterrence, but actual cameras can collect evidence business owners can use to defend against premises liability claims.
6. Hire Guards
Having trained security guards who monitor surveillance footage can spot suspicious activity in a timely manner, recognize behavioral signs of violence, and nip potential threats in the bud. They can deal with vagrants and loiterers professionally and calmly to prevent escalation and appropriately respond with force when the situation calls for it.
7. Use Safety Glass
Install safety glass in critical locations — like low-level windows and glazed partitions — in commercial properties helps protect against attacks and reduces the risk of injury.
It’s tougher than ordinary glass multifold, making it difficult to break into the building. In case of breakage, tempered glass crumbles into small granular pieces instead of jagged sharp shards.
8. Do Maintenance Strategically
Experienced construction professionals, plumbers, roofers, electricians, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians can manage hazards but not reduce the likelihood of accidents to zero. Tackle the upkeep of the building after office hours or when the rental property is empty or vacant to prevent anyone from getting hurt.
9. Act on Contractors’ Advice
Ignoring repair and replacement recommendations is indefensible neglect. Maintenance expenses vary by commercial real estate type, but budgeting for them is good practice to have sufficient funds ready to finance projects accordingly.
Fortunately, only a few maintenance needs are pressing. Reputable contractors can estimate when recommended fixes will become non-negotiable so building owners can prepare for them financially ahead of time.
10. Make the Roof Off-Limits
As many as 4,764 people died due to workplace injuries in 2020 alone. Fall hazards increase the odds that somebody can get critically or fatally injured while at work, so it’s a must to disallow unauthorized roof access.
Explicitly declare the entire roofing system as a restricted area. Schedule regular safety training to remind everyone of roof-related dangers, announce changes in the facility, and discuss updates on relevant regulations.
In addition, invest in adequately designed ladder cage gates with lockable security doors. These features can help building owners comply with federal law and stop stubborn employees from accessing high-risk areas.
11. Vet Contractors Properly
Exercise due diligence when hiring professionals to fix something on the property regardless of the job’s scale. Reputable contractors are licensed, insured and bonded.
Uncredentialed outsiders may do slapdash work that can endanger building tenants and visitors or commit crimes that may implicate the commercial property owner.
12. Consider Banning Pets
Pet owners are responsible for anything their animal companions do. However, commercial property owners who welcome domesticated animals to enter the building may be just as guilty.
Moreover, 13% of American households have exotic pets — like rosy boas and green anacondas — although states have varying restrictions and prohibitions. Therefore, permitting pets within the commercial property’s premises, in general, can expose people to zoonotic disease risk and potentially violent wild animals.
Having a pet-friendly commercial property has its merits, but its disadvantages can outweigh and outnumber its advantages. Banning animals entirely is an effective way to err on the side of caution.
13. Keep Pests and Critters at Bay
Commerce and nature should coexist in harmony, but disregarding infestations of any kind is crossing the line. They can jeopardize people’s safety and the building’s structural integrity.
Businesses should observe a sound pest control policy to keep the number of cockroaches, rats, mice, flies, spiders and termites in check. The same goes for wild animals that may wander the building’s vicinity.
14. Warn Against Dangers
Display conspicuous signs to remind employees, tenants or visitors of prevalent hazards.
Commercial property owners can only do so much to keep everyone safe, but doing everything to warn people against risky areas, objects, and substances is a practical move to avoid liability in case an accident happens.
Protect Against Financial Losses
Being paranoid about premises liability claims is an asset. Many of these strategies may cost money, but adopting them can help business owners fight costly legal battles successfully.