Owning rental investment property can be a satisfying and lucrative operation; however, there are also several areas which need to be carefully heeded in order to make sure that you are not sued and do not become liable for any issues which may arise in connection with your property. Learning how to protect yourself is the first step in ensuring that your investment does not actually become a liability.
First, you must always make sure that you have adequate casualty and property insurance as well as liability insurance. These three items are not the same and it should always be remembered that property insurance will not typically protect you in the event someone becomes injured on your property.
Property and casualty insurance will cover you in the event your property suffers from losses resulting from storm, fire or some other catastrophic loss. Liability insurance is intended to protect you if you should be found to be responsible for someone else’s losses. You may also wish to consider carrying flood insurance if your property is in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Umbrella insurance, which will provide you with additional liability insurance beyond a general liability insurance policy, is another worthy option you may consider.
You may ask yourself under what circumstances you may need liability insurance. There are many instances in which liability insurance could be helpful. For example, liability insurance could protect you in the event a tenant or an employee becomes injured on your property. Liability insurance can also protect you in the event you are sued for discrimination by tenants.
In the event you hire someone to work on your property, it is a good idea to ensure that all repairmen as well as contractors are able to provide their own certificates of insurance indicating they carry both workers’ compensation as well as liability coverage.
You should also make sure you review your insurance coverage with your insurance agent on a regular basis. Many people make the good intention of taking out adequate insurance coverage; however, they fail to review their policies and when disaster does strike sometime later they are surprised to discover that they did not have sufficient coverage after all.
It is also a good idea to make sure that you have formed good working relationships with critical professionals such as an attorney and a good tax accountant. There are many areas of renting property which are regulated by law. If you are not aware of your obligations under these housing laws, you could find yourself facing legal troubles. Therefore, it is certainly a good idea to consult an attorney to make sure you may not be breaking any fair housing laws. It can be entirely too easy to find yourself in trouble because you unknowingly violated one of these laws. Additionally, make sure you meet with a professional tax accountant at least once per year to discuss your tax obligations regarding your property and revenue.
It is also a good idea to check with your local government to determine whether you are required to have a business license in order to operate a rental property in the local area. While this was rather uncommon at one time, today more and more municipalities are enacting regulations which require a business license for each rental property.
Also, keep in mind that your property insurance policy will not cover the belongings of your renter in the event of damage. It is usually a good idea to make sure you let your tenants know this by putting it in writing. Many landlords not only encourage their tenants to obtain renter’s insurance but also require it.
Finally, take proactive steps to reduce your liability by making sure that your property is safe. Liability insurance is certainly beneficial but the best way to ensure that you steer clear of trouble is to keep your property well maintained.