No landlord in their right mind would allow someone to move in without signing a rental agreement first, as it can guard you against legal trouble in the future. The trouble is, no matter how extensive or detailed your lease, there are still a few things that you are liable for.
Hazards on the property
This is perhaps the most important one on the list. It is your responsibility to make sure that your property is safe. This includes indoors and out.
Arguably, it’s easier to maintain the exterior of a building. Make sure snow and ice are dealt with in a timely manner, provide the proper pest management techniques, and fill in potholes in parking areas.
Inside is a bit trickier, as you’ll have to wait until a problem is reported. Just make sure you make the repair quickly. Liability in these instances depends on whether or not you were aware of the problem. If you were unaware of the problem, and there’s no obvious way that you could have discovered the problem on your own, you likely won’t be held accountable.
To allow pets or to not allow pets, that is the question… You can definitely attract some really great tenants if you allow pets on your property, but you may be held liable for their behavior.
It’s a good idea to check with your local animal control office to see if a potential tenant’s pet has ever been reported. You may also want to ask if you can meet the dog before you allow them to sign a lease. That way, you can gauge for yourself how friendly the dog is with strangers.
You’ll also want to take a closer look at your homeowner’s insurance, as some breeds may not be covered under your policy.
Being knowledgeable about landlord liability issues is half the battle! Do your homework and you won’t have to deal with surprise legal issues later.