Have you ever thought that you might be liable for a trespasser injuring themselves on your multi-family complex or commercial property? If not, you should be aware that it is a serious liability if you possess amenities that could potentially be a fatal attraction to anyone on your property, particularly for children. This can include, swimming pools, old appliances, playgrounds and more. These are consider an attractive nuisance on your property. Unsure of what an attractive nuisance is or how to prevent yourself from being liable should an injury occur read below to learn more.
What are Attractive Nuisances?
Attractive nuisances are appealing items present in your property that can be potentially dangerous for children. The law states that if anything in your property is tempting and can cause an accident, you are responsible for reducing the risk of harm. Children are susceptible to danger and require special protection to prevent themselves from injury – something that parents already do every single day. Although it may seem that a child, or even an adult, trespassing on their property is their wrong, if they are injured on your property, you’ll be liable for their actions.
Most Common Attractive Nuisances
One of the most common dreams of a home owner is having or installing a swimming pool at their home to enjoy privately, any time. However, despite the serenity and the relaxation that a swimming pool can provide, it only takes a minute for a life-changing accident to happen. For example, an unsupervised child can find your pool very attractive and be drawn to it, without regard for their own safety. Any child can drown in the water without supervision… and even if it’s not your child, you can be liable for their drowning or injury in your pool. From possibility of death to a long-lasting injury, swimming pools are a very common attractive nuisance to ensure that you’re covered against.
Construction sites and materials can be a point of attraction for children. Every kid may own a dump truck or play tools and when they see the real tools, they may be tempted to touch them or climb onto a real truck. These incidents can often cause significant accidents and leave you responsible. It’s best to practice safe equipment handling and never leave keys inside or tools sitting around. Be sure to educate or train your maintenance workers to always follow a safety first strategy when working on your property. If larger repairs are going to happen inform your residents in advance and
Fountains and Ponds
Fountains and ponds that are on your property offer a beautiful scene for residents to look at as they move about your complex. However to small children these can seem like an attractive area to play in. Often these ponds and fountains have not been treated in the same way a swimming pools have and are unsafe to swim in. They can contain bacteria and other hazards that can make someone sick should the come in contact with the water (see our blog about water contamination here to learn more). To prevent this you’ll want to make sure that they have proper signage around that clearly states “Not For Swimming” or “Do Not Swim”. You can also add rock and greenery around these areas to make them harder to get to and prevent these hazards from occurring.
From time to time you may have a tenant whose appliance is no longer working or you may have decided to upgrade them across the whole complex, while this is great for the tenants it may be a danger to kids if they are left sitting around. Most appliances can lock from the outside and do not offer a way to unlock from the inside, small children can climb inside and get stuck. When moving old appliances around its best to ensure that you do not leave them around unattended. If you do need to leave them somewhere temporarily, like if you’re waiting for a disposal company to come, you’ll want to make sure that you put caution tape around them and secure them in a location that isn’t easily accessible by anyone, especially kids. Ensuing that these old appliances are in a safe space can save you from being held liable should an accident occur.
Some multi-family complexes offer on site playgrounds that are a great attraction for potential residents as they offer a nice place for their children to play that’s close to home. However when used improperly these playgrounds can cause injuries that can leave you liable. Additionally you may have non residents who will sneak onto the playground also leaving you on the hook should an injury occur. The best way to avoid any issues is to have fencing around the perimeter of the playground that includes signs in an open and easy visible area. These signs should have rules of playground use to include but not limited to “for residents only”, guidelines for proper use of the equipment, “no unauthorized children on playground” and listing specific hours that the playground should be use. By doing the steps noted here you’ll be on your way to ensuing that you and your residents are protected should anything happen on a playground.
How to Decrease Your Risk of Liability?
If your multifamily property or community has features considered to be an attractive nuisance, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Make sure all attractive nuisances are gated and locked away when possible. Swimming pools need gates with child-proof latches. All landscaping equipment should be safely stored after work is complete.
- Management should inspect the property regularly. It can be easy to miss equipment or tools when you’ve been working all day on a property. Inspection from a second set of eyes can catch issues like unlocked gates, tools laying in the grass, and opened storage closets.
- Use signage where possible. Let residents know which areas are off limits and what the rules are for using amenities and whether or not they’ll be monitored, such as a lifeguard on duty at the pool. If construction is going to start on the property, post leaflets on residents’ doors and consider using a text or email service to remind them not to go near the equipment.
- Use proper lighting. Keeping areas well lit can prevent people from attempting to use your amenities at night. Motion sensor lights are a good option for when you need to keep an area dark the majority of the time or don’t want to waste electricity.
- Use security cameras. If you think people may be sneaking into restricted areas or using amenities after hours, a security camera can detect them so that they can be confronted or ejected from the community. If you catch people repeatedly, it’s a sign you may need to rethink your security and safety protocols around an amenity.
- Include specific language in leases that prohibits use of amenities after hours, and lets residents and tenants know that if they misuse amenities or otherwise access equipment and tools not intended for public use, they are accepting liability for them or their dependents if they do. This may or may not hold up in court, but is often enough to discourage misuse.
- Purchase proper insurance. Even if you do your best to keep amenities locked up, someone may injure themselves, or a child may sneak into an unmonitored area. A good insurance policy can protect you from financial damage. You need to ensure your policy has an attractive nuisance clause.
Having an attractive nuisance comes with increased liability. You will need to be cautious about proper safety measures to avoid accidents. Your insurance company may raise your premium, usually by a substantial amount. You should also consider increasing your liability limit.
At worst, some insurance companies may even deny coverage entirely – requiring you to give up your attractive nuisance or lose your home in severe cases.