Before You Rent Out Your House Make it Safe for Tenants

Before You Rent Out Your House: Make it Safe for Tenants

Rental properties can be a great and relatively easy investment, particularly if you find responsible renters who love the apartment or house and plan to live at the residence long term. As a landlord, you have many responsibilities which include making your property safe and sound for any potential renters.

Even if you are hesitant to put a lot of money into a property that may get wrecked by rowdy renters, you must keep tenants safe from falls due to a broken stairwell or scalding burns from an old water heater. Your investment in your renters’ safety will save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run.

Your Renters Have Rights

As a landlord, you have expectations of your renters that you make clear in the lease which most often includes paying rent on time and being respectful of the rental property. However, if you fail to make the rental property “livable” you are violating your renters’ rights and they have the right to withhold rent payments, ask for compensation, or even sue you for negligence.

Even if your rental property is older and requires a little work, simply reducing the rent will not compensate for lack of safety or livability. In order for a rental property, apartment or house, to be considered a habitable living space (also known as Implied Warranty of Habitability) includes the following, but may not be limited to:

  • Structurally Safe and Sound: Stairs, floors, foundation, and the roof should all be intact and safe for inhabitants. This means that the roof should be free from leaks and flooring should be strong.
  • Keep the Basics Operational: An apartment with faulty wiring, bad plumbing, or broken elevators are a recipe for disaster and tenant injuries. A good question to ask yourself; would you live in your own rental property? If you say “no”, you’ve got some work to do.
  • Heat & Water: Heat and water are basic needs. Your renters should be supplied with hot water and heat for the colder months. Make sure that equipment to heat water, such as water heaters or boilers, are in good working condition and set to a reasonable temperature. Too hot and your tenants can be injured badly.
  • No Exposure to Toxins: Many rental properties are old homes and buildings built with materials that are now known to pose health threats (such as asbestos and lead paint). Renters must know if they could be potentially exposed to toxins and you, as a landlord, should do your best to eliminate or reduce hazardous material.

When considering the purchase of a rental property, you must always consider the safety of the building. A certified home inspector, upon thorough inspection, can report what may need to be repaired. If too many things need fixing or replacing to make it safe before you rent, it may not be a worthy investment. Remember, as a landlord, your obligations are to recognize your renter’s rights and make your property as safe as possible.

shutterstock_195491885

Preparing for a Party or Event? Make Your Home Safe and Secure

Do not take unnecessary risks if you are hosting a party or event. Keep your guests safe, and avoid a potential injury or a lawsuit due to hazardous conditions. In fact, spinal cord injuries have been known to happen from a walk down a flight of stairs gone bad. It’s easy to overlook safety issues with all the activity of setting up a party, but the extra precautions will be worth the effort.

Examine the inside and the perimeter of the event location. Are there cracks in the sidewalk or potholes in the driveway? These could cause a slip and fall, making you potentially liable for any injury. If you have a bouncy house for a child’s party, make sure it is properly anchored and have an adult supervise it. Walkways should be free of obstructions or debris; clear out any furniture that obstructs the passageways. You should consider putting away small objects that can easily break or be swallowed by toddlers. You may want to use plastic and paper products rather than serve food and drinks in glass containers that can break.

A primary cause of accidents is a pool that is ungated or unattended. If you have no gate around your pool, designate one or more persons to keep an eye on swimmers and small children around the pool area. A fenced pool is not a guarantee that children won’t find a way in, so all children must be supervised at all times if a pool is on the property. Be alert for toddlers falling in the pool or jumping in without a parent. Water makes the poolside slippery, so ask guests not to run. Walking with bare feet on cement or slippery tiles could result in a head injury or worse. If adults are drinking alcohol, this adds a risk factor as well.

Take Safety Precautions to Avoid an Accident

Some safety precautions to take are:

  • Place decorative markers on sliding glass doors so no one runs into them.
  • Put extension cord covers on electrical wires to prevent tripping.
  • Put safety runners on slippery surfaces such as high polished wood or tile.
  • Cordon off staircases if small children are present or if stairs are worn; make sure hand railings are secure.
  • Keep knives or sharp objects beyond the reach of children.
  • Monitor alcohol intake of your guests; make sure they do not drink and drive.

It is well worth your while to make a checklist ahead of time for party and event safety. Make especially sure that there are sufficient fire exits and bathroom facilities. If it is a pool party or barbeque, have supervisors at these locations. An event or party can be a fun and memorable experience for you and your guests. Keep everyone safe and secure and it will be a hit!

slipandfall

Slip and Fall Cases – A Serious Risk for Business Owners

Most business owners have their attention focused on the day-to-day operations of their business, as well as its immediate and future success. The majority work hard to present a positive image of the business, improve sales and keep customers happy. Very few are worried about the risk of accident or injury, despite the fact that slip and fall cases can pose a serious and costly risk for business owners.

Under premises liability laws, business owners have a duty to reasonably maintain their property and premises in such a way so as to keep customers and invited guests safe. If a broken stairwell goes unrepaired, a leaky pipe is allowed to drip to the point where water pools on the ground, or an uneven sidewalk is not fixed in a timely fashion, it can pose a significant danger. In these situations, if a customer were to slip and fall due to an unsafe condition the business owner should have been previously aware of and taken prompt action to fix, that business owner could be liable for any injuries or loss caused as a result of his or her negligence.

The Severity of Slip and Fall Accidents

The severity of injuries in a slip and fall accident will largely depend on the surface where the accident took place, the cause of the accident, the force of impact, and the age of the victim. Some people will only suffer bumps and bruises after a slip and fall, while others may suffer broken bones, severe back and neck injuries, and traumatic head injuries. In rare instances, an individual could succumb to injuries sustained in a slip and fall. The medical bills, rehabilitation costs, loss of income, and other accident-related expenses for which a business owner could be held liable will quickly add up.

In one case, an appeals court awarded $400,000 to the family of a victim who slipped, fell and broke his hip in a Target store parking lot. The man’s surviving family members received the award, as the victim and his wife had passed away before they were able to get their day in court.

Another woman was recently awarded $5 million dollars in a settlement brought about by injuries she suffered after slipping and falling on wet flooring glue at the school where she was a high school administrator. Her injuries caused long-term nerve damage and left her unable to walk without the use of the cane. She was later diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, as a result of her injuries, and requires assistance 24 hours a day.

What Business Owners Can Do to Minimize the Risk of Slip and Falls

Business owners can minimize their risk in slip and fall accidents by being diligent. Making sure walkways stay free of debris and clutter, keeping an eye out for potential slip and fall hazards, encouraging employees to report conditions which could prove dangerous, and following through with timely repairs can all reduce the liability a business owner may face. Even putting up wet floor signs can reduce the risk of injury and lower the potential for a premises liability case.

shutterstock_160934696

Important – But Often Overlooked – Business Start Up Tips

New business startups are challenging and adventurous, with a multitude of factors to consider. If you plan to grow your business or sell it someday, it is important that you run it right from the beginning and operate within the confines of the law. The basics steps involved in starting a new business are not difficult to find. For example, an article on Forbes tells you how to go about it in 8 key steps. The Small Business Administration also provides step-by-step instructions. However, certain new business tips, although equally important, are frequently overlooked.

Commonly Overlooked Tips for Business Start Ups

Get the insurance coverage your business needs. According to an article on Forbes, a small business owner may need any combination of 13 different types of insurance. A business owner’s policy (BOP) combines coverage your business needs in one package and typically saves you money. A BOP may include property insurance, auto insurance, liability insurance, crime insurance, and business interruption insurance. Depending on the type of business you have, you may also need errors and omissions professional liability insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, directors and officers insurance, data breach insurance, or other types of coverage.

Set up your general ledger properly. You can buy off-the-shelf software for this purpose, but according to an article on Entrepreneur, you should carefully consider your initial financial setup in order to fully understand your company financials and for future proof of the value you have built in your business. It may be in your best interests to hire an accountant to set up your books initially.

Keep careful records of your expenses. As covered in the Entrepreneur article, it is important to understand the extent of the items you are allowed to expense in your business. Keep all your receipts and meticulous records. This will help you with audits and due diligence of future potential buyers or investors, and enable you to reduce your taxable income without hurting the value of your company.

Keep business and personal expenses separate. A range of expenses meet generally acceptable accounting principle (GAAP) standards and it is perfectly legitimate to use business funds to pay for them. Using business funds for personal use, on the other hand, can get you in trouble with the IRS and expose you to liability, as covered in the Entrepreneur article. If you paid for personal expenses with business funds, it would be difficult to separate them out if your company was being valued in the future. The best policy is to keep personal expenses out of the business from the start.

Report all company revenue. If you are doing business in cash, it may be easy to skim money off the business, but that would be unadvisable. It could get you in trouble with the IRS and reduce the value of your company in the long run. It would be difficult to establish the value and growth of your business if you were not reporting the correct numbers.

shutterstock_224194186

What to Do When You Have a Defective Product in Your Home

Defective products enter homes every day. Unfortunately, even companies who pride themselves on the highest of quality are not immune to releasing a product that could potentially cause a personal injury or kill someone. As careful as many consumers try to be, they are also not guaranteed a safe product. Defective products, sad to say, are a fact of life. Does this mean that we, as consumers, need to be OK with that? Of course not, but we can prevent the possibility of an incident in our own home by being a little more proactive and aware.

What is a Defective Product?

A defective product is simply something that doesn’t work the way it was intended to and can potentially result in the injury or death of an individual. Generally, there are three types of product defects: design, manufacturing, and marketing.

  • Design Defect exists before the product is manufactured. For example, a piece of machinery could be missing an essential safeguard that was overlooked during the design process. If someone is injured while using this product, it could be blamed on a design defect.
  • Manufacturing Defect occurs during the construction or production of the item. In many incidents relating to a manufacturing defect, only a small amount of the product (such as a batch) are deemed defective. Manufacturing defects are common and can include anything from automotive recalls, food products, and various products throughout the home.
  • Marketing Defect is the failure to warn consumers of danger or having improper instructions. Most often, marketing defects are fixed shortly after the report of a design defect.

In some cases of a defective product, the product can be taken off of the market because it contains all three defects.

Defective Products: Dangerous for All Ages

Visit Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on a weekly basis and you will most likely see new recalls directly related to a design, manufacturing, or marketing flaw. CPSC’s mission is to alert consumers before anyone is injured or killed. In the case of many recalls, the defect was discovered before an incident occurred or reported. Any product can be defective, whether they are toys for a child or a simple over the counter medication. Here are just a few examples of defective products that really left a lasting impression on consumers of all ages:

  • Bouncy Moon Houses: These inflatable amusement houses that have gained popularity in backyards and kid-centered events for years. Between 2003-2013, there were an estimated 113,272 ER treated injuries and 12 deaths associated with the inflatable homes.
  • Tylenol: This common, over-the-counter pain reliever was forced to recall millions of product in 1982, when 7 people died after ingesting Extra-Strength Tylenol laced with potassium cyanide. In a “Top 10 Recalls” list released by Time, the tragic incident forced Tylenol to change packaging, resulting in a much safer product.
  • Firestone Tires: In 2000, 6.5 million Firestone brand times were recalled after 175 deaths and more than 700 injuries, a defect related to manufacturing.

What if I have a Defective Product?

The best way to avoid purchasing a defective product is by paying attention to daily and weekly reports released by the CPSC. While they cannot guarantee “catching” every defect, their list is extensive and lifesaving.

If you suspect or know a product is defective, collect as much information as you can about the product (serial numbers, barcodes, descriptive information) and report it to saferproducts.gov Don’t become a statistic, help prevent defective products from entering homes.

56499609

What Are Your Options if You’ve Become Disabled?

Immediate Steps for Possible Benefits

If you have long been in the workforce, but have recently become disabled, it’s clear that your world has suddenly changed in a big way. Among other pressing concerns, you may be worried about how you are going to get by financially. If you are unable to work, the first step you can take down this path is to find out what benefits you may qualify for—there are systems in place for people in your situation.

If you became disabled on the job, you may qualify for workers’ compensation (which varies by state). Some states also offer public disability insurance, which will assist you if you have been paying into their program. Finally, those who have been paying into Social Security, and who are unable to work for 12 (consecutive) months due to a disability, should qualify for benefits from that program.

For help filing a claim, you can speak with a Flint Social Security Disability lawyer. The process can be quite complicated, so it’s worth getting legal advice: social security decides whether or not you are disabled regardless of what your doctor says. It can take up to five months to receive a decision, and sometimes claims are initially denied (though you may appeal). On the plus side, it may surprise you to learn that you can enroll in Medicare after two years of receiving Social Security disability benefits, even if you are not yet of retirement age.

Looking Ahead and Returning to Work

There is no shame in applying for benefits while you are unable to work, but of course it’s natural to be hopeful about returning to work one day. According to the Employment and Disability Institute at Cornell University, about a third of disabled Americans aged 21-64 are in fact employed. Moreover, it is illegal for employers (barring some small employers) from discriminating against those with disabilities. You may be able to return to your old job in exactly the same capacity as before, or your work life may look completely different after becoming disabled.

If you are looking for a completely new job, you may want to try GettingHired, which is an online resource for finding employment that suits your skills and needs as a disabled person. Some federal agencies actually have incentives to hire workers with disabilities, and the application process for these agencies is thus often streamlined. You may also consider working from home and/or becoming self-employment, especially if your disability involves fatigue or difficulty moving around.

As goes for all job-seekers, volunteering can be a good way to explore a field that interests you, and help get your foot in the door. Volunteer positions are also usually more flexible than paid positions, which may make them an attractive stepping-stone on your way to another job. Regardless of what you choose, remember that you have many abilities in addition to your disability, and that there is help available to you from many avenues.

Sources:

509345987

Pedestrian Safety Tips

Every day in the United States, an estimated 445 pedestrians seek emergency treatment for traffic-related injuries. In 2013, the most recent year data is available, there were 4,735 pedestrian fatalities and another 66,000 injuries. That’s about one pedestrian death every two hours, and one injury every eight minutes. If you are one of the tens of thousands of pedestrians injured every year as a result of a vehicle-related accident, there are critical steps you should take directly after the event that will help ensure your rights. But, avoiding an accident in the first place should be your focus. Here are some easy-to-follow tips on how to stay safe as a pedestrian.

Never Assume

Just because someone is driving a vehicle doesn’t mean he is paying close attention to the road. Distracted driving habits, including eating and cell phone use, lead to more than 3,300 fatalities a year, many of which involve pedestrians. Other factors, including vehicle blind spots and driver drowsiness, can also play a role in pedestrian-related accidents.

Instead of assuming that a driver can see you, make sure the road is clear before attempting to cross the street. If you’re in a particularly busy area, and waiting for traffic to clear isn’t plausible, make eye contact with any driver in your proximity before crossing the street, even when you have the right of way and are using a crosswalk.

Distracted Walking

Drivers are not the only people who can be distracted when they’re on the go. Pedestrians can be just as easily distracted. When you’re reading a text message, playing a game, or are otherwise engaged with your mobile device, you aren’t paying attention to your surroundings, and just as with a distracted driver, the results can be disastrous. When you are walking, put away your cell phone or tablet. If you must reply to a text, step to the side, out of the way of others, and then respond.

Follow the Law

Jaywalking is not only illegal, but it can be fatal. In fact, pedestrian noncompliance is the leading cause of injuries and fatalities. In 2013, 69% of all pedestrian fatalities occurred at non-intersections compared to 20% of fatalities occurring in an intersection, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The balance of the fatalities occurred in parking lanes, driveways, roadsides, and other locations. When you need to cross the street, use the crosswalk, and never cross against the light.

Special Circumstances

The sidewalk is the safest place for pedestrians. Occasionally, however, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to walk somewhere, but no sidewalk is available. In that instance, walk as far onto the shoulder of the road as possible, and always walk facing traffic. If your back is to traffic, you won’t be able to see oncoming dangers, and you’ll be unable to avoid them.

If you’re walking at night, it is imperative that you wear light, bright, or reflective clothing, and carry a flashlight, even if you plan on staying on the sidewalk. At some point, you may have to cross the street, and if drivers cannot see you, they won’t be able to avoid you.

Pedestrian safety requires vigilance on the part of both the driver and the pedestrian. When you head out for a walk, always follow traffic laws, make sure drivers can see you, and pay attention to your surroundings. When you follow those simple tips, you’ll be increasing the odds that you will reach your destination safely.

487487825

Take Care to Avoid Slip-and-Fall Accidents on Your Property

When it comes to slip-and-fall accidents, as a business owner, strong preventative measures are the key. You never want to see a customer have an accident due to carelessness and oversight on your part, so consider taking these steps beforehand to making your property the safest it can be for customers and employees alike.

Basically, your property needs to be safe for a “reasonable person,” that is, someone who is taking normal care to avoid danger, and is avoiding obvious obstacles. You as a business owner need to rid the property of any hidden or obvious dangers that could result in a slip and fall. The best thing you can do it to train all employees, especially managers, to be vigilant and to deal with these issues immediately. We’ll walk you through some tips address common causes of slip-and-fall injuries, and what you can do to prevent them.

Tips to Making Your Business Safer

  • First, consider seasonal hazards. One of the most common times for slip-and-fall injuries is, of course, the winter, when ice and snow make pathways hazardous. So, keep all sidewalks, driveways, ramps and staircases free of slippery ice and snow. In the fall, keep these areas free of fallen leaves, which can be surprisingly slippery as well. Remember that outside areas, if they are on your property, are just as much your responsibility to keep safe as the interior areas are.
  • Make sure there is no uneven flooring. A normal person isn’t looking down everywhere he or she walks, so if there is an uneven walking surface, broken tiles or other problems, he or she could easily trip and fall.
  • If anything gets spilled, put up a warning sign, and clean it up quickly. This is very common in restaurants, where even a flying toddler’s drink can create a slippery hazard. It may also come in car-repair businesses, where grease puddles can be especially treacherous. More generally, this can also be a seasonal issue, as wet boots and umbrellas can create hard-to-see puddles.
  • Keep your property free of clutter. Without realizing, it, employees can often place materials in passageways or, even worse, in stairwells—so train them to keep these areas clear. Not only will this make the property more appealing and easy to navigate, but it will also prevent visitors from bumping into stray boxes or other items and hurting themselves, or falling down stairs. Also make sure that nothing is obstructing an exit pathway.
  • Put up warning signs beside any elevated surfaces. It may be common sense to be careful on a platform or a ladder, but remember that, as the owner, you’re used to them, whereas new visitors are not; it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Invest in good lighting. It may sound silly, but a dark environment is much more prone to accidents, especially for older people. Besides, better lighting will improve visitors’ overall experience at your business, so it’s well worth your while. Once again, this includes exterior as well as interior lighting.

Sources:

GettyImages_455684081

Driving Safely: What to Do in Case of a Car Accident

In 2013, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, 2.3 million people in the United States were injured as a result of car accidents, and another 32,719 were killed. The leading cause of those accidents was driver error, which can include everything from speeding to unsafe lane changes and distracted driving. Regardless of the reason for a car accident, though, it is a traumatic experience that is often exacerbated when emotions are allowed to take control. However, by remaining calm, pulling to the side of the road, and taking the appropriate steps directly after impact, further injury or loss can be prevented, and you can help expedite the investigation and insurance claim. That way, you can get back to life as you know it that much sooner.

Assess Injuries and Danger

Immediately after the accident, it is critical that you move your car off the road, if possible. Sometimes a vehicle is rendered immobile after a car accident, and if that’s the case use discretion about whether or not to exit the vehicle. If the surrounding traffic makes it too dangerous to get out of the car, remain inside with your seatbelt still fastened. Call 911 for immediate assistance.

If you are able to safely exit the vehicle, and the situation allows for it, do a quick assessment of both your passengers and the passengers in the other vehicle(s). If immediate first aid is required, assist with what you can, but do not attempt to extract injured people, as it may worsen the injuries. The exception to the rule would be if there are liquids leaking from the vehicle, or there is smoke or fire. In such extreme circumstances, use discretion when deciding how much assistance you can safely offer. Once an initial assessment has been made to determine whether or not there are life-threatening injuries or a life threatening situation, move to the side of the road and call 911 if you haven’t already done so.

Take Pictures

Depending on the circumstances in which you find yourself, you may or may not be able to safely take pictures of all involved vehicles. If you can, however, make sure to get shots of the following areas: driver’s and passenger’s sides, front and rear, all corners, and the license plate. In addition, take photos of the surrounding area, including landmarks, buildings, street and traffic signs, accident-related debris, damaged property, and skid marks.

Gather Information

If you and the other driver are able to calmly exchange information, do so. Provide your name, address, telephone number, driver’s license number, vehicle registration, and vehicle insurance information. Ask the other driver for the same set of information. Also jot down the make and model of the other vehicle to go along with your photos. Since emotions will be heightened, it will be easy to forget what information is needed, so keep a checklist in your vehicle at all times.

As soon as is reasonable, contact your insurance company with the details of the accident and forward to your agent all of the information you have, including the photos. A final note about exchanging information: never admit fault during the course of the conversation. Allow the police and insurance companies to make that determination.

The period directly following a car accident can be a time of fear, confusion and uncertainty. However, if you remain calm, keep safety in mind at all times, and document the incident thoroughly, you will save time and frustration, and you will be back on the road before you know it.

477502633

What Is A Personal Injury Attorney?

When a person has been injured, whether physically, emotionally or both, as the result of an act of negligence or wrongdoing, they often choose to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer. These legal professionals are engaged in protecting the rights of injured persons, filing claims and lawsuits, and managing all aspects of recovering compensation.

All personal injury cases hinge upon the legal concept of negligence, which is essentially when a person (or entity) acts or fails to act in a manner that another reasonable person would.

It is a broad concept, but can be applied to countless situations, such as drunk, speeding, reckless or distracted drivers, acts of medical malpractice, unsafe premises, or even dangerous dogs that have been allowed to roam freely. Establishing negligence is the first order of business for the personal injury lawyer, and he or she will review the facts in the case to make a decision about its merits. Some cases of negligence are very clear, and not in question, where others could are far more difficult to resolve.

Most injury cases are settled outside of court, but some must proceed to court when challenged, or when an insurance company will not pay adequate compensation to a victim.

Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and are commercial operations that answer to upper management and shareholders. The bottom line is the profits made by the company. Most people do not fully understand the processes that insurance companies employ when evaluate the value of, and pay out compensation for claims. Initially, an interview with the injured person takes place. Unfortunately, these interviews may have a hidden goal – getting the injured party to admit to some level of responsibility for the injury. Access to medical records is part of the process as well, and your entire medical history will be painstakingly reviewed to find out if there is any condition, illness or other situation that could have made the level of injury worse.

For example, if you had an existing back pain problem, were then hit by another driver, and your back injury was exacerbated, the insurance company could claim you already had a back condition and the accident was not the sole cause of the injuries you sustained. A personal injury lawyer works to protect the injured from these types of strategies, and is very familiar with how to manage requests for information from an insurance adjuster. In many cases, a person who is represented by an injury attorney will recover double or triple the amount in compensation than if the he or she had tried to resolve the case without legal help.

Insurance Companies and Personal Injury Lawyers

Insurance company personnel can often try to deter an injured person from contacting a lawyer, and will say that all that will occur is that some of the settlement money will be lost in legal fees. In fact, a personal injury lawyer takes a set percentage of the final settlement, which if it is far higher than the injured person would have recovered, is still significantly higher in value. How do they do it? They know how to correctly evaluate the long term consequences of the injury upon the person, and how state-specific laws or caps on certain damages can impact the amount sought in a claim or lawsuit.

For serious injuries, it is important that the injured person is adequately compensated. An individual who is facing disabilities, whether physical, mental or both, will be dealing with difficult challenges, and may never be able to work in his or her chosen profession again, or provide the income, love and care to the family as prior to the injury. These are all issues that must be evaluated and given a monetary value. A personal injury lawyer is a professional in this field, and can advise you of the actual value of your injury claim, and then proceed to pursue compensation that is fair. Insurance company personnel, such as defense lawyers, are aware that when a legal professional is on the case there is far less “wiggle room” and a much lower chance of getting an injured person to accept an unfair settlement.