Liability isn’t always fun to talk about. No one likes to think about worst-case scenarios and what-ifs. But, it deserves your consideration as a real estate investor. Protecting yourself from potential liability requires preparation and planning.
While renting out a Las Vegas home provides a lot of potential for earnings and wealth, it also comes with risk. Every investment does.
When we talk about the liability that’s inherent with real estate investing, there’s a lot of liability involved with your property. Not only do you have to worry about that, you also have to think about your tenants and the risk they bring into your home. Having other people living in your property is always risky – no matter how well they’re screened and how prepared you might feel.
At Strawberry Property Management, we happen to do an excellent job of protecting our clients from liability and risk. We defend our owners against potential disputes and conflicts, and we work extra hard to protect their investments and their interests.
We’re digging into that area of expertise today, as we discuss some of the best ways to limit liabilities on your Las Vegas rental home.
Las Vegas Landlord Insurance Must be Comprehensive
The most obvious starting point when it comes to personal protection against liability is insurance.
Insurance provides you with financial cover in case something goes wrong. You never want to find yourself filing for a claim and then learning you’re uninsured or not adequately insured. It’s always a good idea to check in with your insurance agent. Make sure your policy is current. This is especially important now, as a lot of homes are valued at a price point that’s much higher than even a year ago. You want to make sure your insurance policy reflects the accurate value of your property. Talk to your agent about any new coverage that might be necessary to further protect you from liability and your home from loss.
You’re looking for a comprehensive insurance policy that can provide enough liability protection to cover you if your tenant or a tenant’s guest gets injured at your property and files a lawsuit. Landlord insurance isn’t only about covering the structure of the home and your ability to repair or rebuild after a covered loss. It’s also about protecting you from claims that others may make against you.
As a landlord, you run the risk of being sued by a tenant. There are plenty of risks inherent at rental properties. To mitigate your risk and protect your finances, you want to be sure that you’re fully covered. You also want to make sure you’re reaching adequate levels of liability protection.
Consider an umbrella policy, especially if you’re renting out more than one home. When you have an entire portfolio of investment property, an umbrella policy can offer you additional liability coverage that may help out if something catastrophic happens. Your policy will cover accidents and tenant injuries. If a tenant claims you were negligent, your policy will be more than over you.
Require Renter’s Insurance of Las Vegas Tenants
Renter’s insurance has grown in popularity over the years, and that’s good news for property owners who are trying to reduce their risk and liability.
You should require that tenants carry renter’s insurance before they move into your property. Write it into the lease agreement and enforce this requirement. If you are added as an additional insured or an interested party, you can be notified if the policy lapses or changes.
Here’s why we like renter’s insurance as a way to protect yourself from risk:
- It’s cheap for tenants to obtain. They shouldn’t pay more than $20 a month for a good policy, and usually the insurance can be bundled with their automobile policy.
- Renter’s insurance protects the personal belongings of your tenants. If there’s a covered loss, your insurance will cover the home but it won’t cover the tenant’s belongings. This protects them and it protects you.
- Tenant liability is also covered by a renter’s insurance policy. If they burn down the kitchen by leaving the stove on, your insurance won’t kick in because it’s the fault of the tenant. Their policy will pay first.
As the owner, your finances are better protected from tenant-caused damage when a renter’s insurance policy is in place. Tenants that are required to have renters insurance on board are more able to meet the financial obligations. If they damage your property they only need to pay the deductible.
Keep Your Las Vegas Investment Property Safe and Habitable
When you rent out a property that’s safe, habitable, and well-maintained, there’s less liability. You aren’t running the risk that an expensive system will break down.
To ensure all the maintenance is up to date and the home looks good, conduct routine inspections. This will help you keep tabs on your property and ensure your tenants are performing the way you expect them.
Your move-in and move-out inspections are some important ways to protect yourself against any extra liability. Before a tenant moves in and after a tenant moves out, look for plumbing and electrical issues. Check the roof and make sure the doors and windows lock. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors need to work, and you’ll want to make sure the dryer vent is clear of dust and lint. Look for loose handrails, uneven steps, and any issues outside that may cause harm.
In addition to your move-in and move-out inspections, one routine inspection during the tenancy can help you ensure the property is being well-maintained and kept clean. You can look for lease violations, which might also lead to liability. For example, if a tenant has moved in with a dog without permission and that dog attacks someone, you can almost certainly expect a lawsuit.
Learn and Comply with State, Local, and Federal Laws
There’s a lot of liability for rental property owners who do not comply with or understand all the laws and requirements that pertain to rental housing in Nevada. These laws are getting more complex, and if you aren’t up to date, there’s a chance you might violate a fair housing law or a security deposit law without even realizing it. This sets you up for some legal penalties that can be expensive and demoralizing.
You need to know all of the fair housing laws in place to protect tenants against discrimination. These laws also apply to service animals and companion animals. Tenants have a lot of rights in Nevada, and you need to respect those rights or put yourself at risk for a claim or a lawsuit. For example, not returning your tenant’s security deposit within the mandated 30 days can be expensive. Treating a service animal like a pet can inspire an immediate fair housing claim.
These laws are easy to break – even unintentionally. However, the legal mistakes you can make are often expensive.
Choose Good Las Vegas Tenants
You can limit your liability by working with well-qualified tenants who are carefully screened. You’re looking for low-risk tenants who are going to:
- Pay rent on time.
- Take good care of your property.
- Follow the terms of the lease agreement.
- Communicate in Las Vegas. Make sure you have a screening process that identifies and places responsible, credible residents who will pay rent on time and take care of your home.
Once you’ve placed the tenants who you believe are the best qualified, you need to develop a good working relationship. Make an effort to be responsive, professional, and respectful. When tenants feel comfortable with you, there’s less risk in the tenancy as a whole.
Document Everything Pertaining to Your Investment
Keep detailed, accurate, and transparent records of everything pertaining to your Las Vegas rental property. This includes all leasing documents like applications, screening reports, and leases. It also includes receipts, inspection reports, tenant maintenance requests, notices to tenants, and more.
Everything should be in writing, and using digital files that can be stored in the cloud offers the most protection. It allows you to have all of the information and documentation that you need at your fingertips at all times – even if you’re away from your office.
Documentation provides the proof you need to defend your case if you find yourself in court.
If you’re really worried about liability and how to protect yourself, there’s one immediate and easy thing that you can do to limit the risk that comes with leasing, managing, and maintaining a rental property.
Work with a professional Las Vegas property management company.
When you partner with professionals, you don’t have to worry about liability because your management team is protecting you and your investments. You can expect your property managers to stay up to date on all the latest laws and best practices. We understand the risks in unique ways because we do this work every day. We have the systems, processes, and expertise that can best protect you and your property.
If you’d like to hear more about how property management can help, please contact us at Strawberry Property Management Las Vegas.