Liability Reduction Strategies for Austin Property Owners
Property owners sometimes think they can do whatever they want on their own land without consequences. While you can choose to leave your swimming pool unfenced and to leave a dry-rotted railing in place, doing so presents a liability risk. If someone were to suffer an injury on your property, he or she could hire an Austin premises liability lawyer and you could face legal responsibility.
The Responsibility of Property Owners in Texas
According to state and federal laws governing premises liability, all property owners owe visitors a certain duty of care. Under Texas laws, you could also owe a duty of care to minors who trespass. As a private or commercial property owner, you must maintain a reasonably safe property and sufficiently warn visitors of any known hazards.
Instead of fighting a lawsuit arising from unsafe hazards, many property owners choose to proactively manage properties to reduce risk and keep visitors safe. Property owners are only responsible for hazards they knew existed or ones they reasonably should have known existed under the law.
Reducing Liability as an Austin Property Owner
Whether you own a local shop or a home in Austin, take these steps to maintain a safe property and reduce the risk of an injury-related legal claim:
- Secure swimming pools. Unsecured swimming pools may look inviting to young children and impaired adults. Keep people from accidentally drowning or hitting their head on your property with security-rated fencing including child-proof gates. Store all hazardous chemicals and pool toys in a shed or storage box, and remove any climbable trees and fixtures that may facilitate climbing a fence.
- Check your entryway. In commercial locations as well as residences, many people may walk across walkways, up stairs, and across a porch. UPS, US Mail, FedEx, and other delivery services may walk onto your property on any given day in addition to other invited visitors. Use non-slip coatings, secure handrails, and reasonable lighting to protect visitors from falls. If you worry about a delivery person on your steps, consider installing a mail drop box near your mailbox, garage, or the foot of the stairs to prevent unnecessary stair climbing.
- Adhere to applicable regulations. If you rent out your properties to other tenants or serve the public, regulations may require certain safety precautions. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act, zoning requirements, and other regulations may place a higher duty of care on certain property owners. If you fall under the scope of any regulatory body, keep your property in compliance to avoid accidents, injuries, and lawsuits.
- Invest in inspections. Many property owners don’t keep track of local laws, building codes, and regulations. If you regularly entertain people at your home or run a business, work with inspectors even if the action is not required. Professionals may point out certain hazards you did not catch and that could create liability.
- Fence off or place warnings on farmland. If you live outside Austin and own enough property that you cannot monitor it regularly, consider adding fencing or trespasser warnings along your property line. The act may serve as enough of a deterrent to prevent you from facing liability if a trespasser twists an ankle in a hole or cuts himself on a piece of farming equipment.
- Address environmental hazards. Take steps to identify and address lead and asbestos on the property and to prevent mold buildup to reduce the risk of guest, tenant, or customer exposure. Maintain safety systems including smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and keep a clutter-free and sanitary environment.
All property owners face a certain duty of care, but commercial property owners must often exert additional hazard mitigation activities. With proper maintenance, regulatory compliance, and warnings, any property owner can significantly reduce his or her liability.