Getting Real Estate Safe for Visitors
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when preparing for visitors. Whether you’re a property owner, real estate agent, or renting an Airbnb, a regular pattern of inspection, repair, and upkeep will protect you from lawsuits and even more importantly, protect visitors.
A real estate agent in Waco, Texas was severely injured when two pit bulls attacked her. The homeowner kept the dogs in the garage and was able to prove that the agent knew the dogs were there, and thus, avoided being sued. But this case is proof that anything can happen.
In California, injured parties can file a premises liability claim under Civil Code 1714(a). Under the law, property owners and property occupiers that rent commercial space from a landlord have an obligation legally to protect the reasonable safety of customers and any individual invited on to the premises. If the property owner fails to keep the premises in what is considered reasonably safe condition, they can be sued for damages.
In real estate, a home that is being sold is no longer the legal responsibility of the previous owner, so during an open house, for example, it can be hard to figure out who is at fault. The simple answer would be if the home is for sale and being shown by a realtor, that real estate agent or the company who employs him or her is responsible for the safety of visitors.
Potential Sources of Injury in Real Estate Settings
Certain situations can be considered hazardous and violate duty of care:
- Animal attack, as illustrated in the Waco situation previously referenced
- Wet floors or icy sidewalks
- Tripping hazards
- Heavy objects falling or dislodging
- Fire from candles, fireplaces, or wood stoves
Being prepared is the best defense and preventative measures should be taken to keep the property safe for visitors:
- Inspect the stairways.
- Unstable staircases or cluttered stairways are a recipe for disaster.
- Take a quick walk-through to make sure there are no wet floors, cords, or rugs in the visitors path.
- This may seem obvious but it’s surprising how often these small details are missed.
- Clear any tripping hazard even on level floors, including moving boxes.
- Ask visitors to wear shoes.
- Real estate agents may be proud of staging and shiny floors, but for someone wearing socks, that newly waxed floor is a slip-and-fall accident waiting to happen.
- Keep all areas well lit.
- Your duty of care includes making sure the rooms are bright enough for your visitors to safely move through.
- Remove anything with jagged edges.
- Construction crews could leave nails or tools laying around.
Unfortunately despite your best efforts, accidents still happen. An experienced injury attorney needs to be on speed dial if you find yourself with litigious visitors. Taking conscientious accident prevention measures will go far in protecting you from litigation.