On a scale of one to ten, how safe would you say your South Florida rental property is?
You might not know it, but your home is probably a hub for environmental hazards including asbestos, radon, lead, mold, and more – all of which can cause serious harm to your tenants. By law, landlords are responsible for keeping their rental properties risk-free, or in real estate “lingo”, habitable. If you fail to perform your obligations, such as providing heating, cooling, etc. your tenants might hold you accountable.
Unfortunately, not all landlords know that their rental properties are at risk of asbestos, mold, radon, and more. In this article, we will break down the common environmental risks in a rental property, and what you or your property management agent can do to address them now.
If your rental property was constructed before 1981, there’s a good chance that it contains asbestos. This is particularly true if your property has “popcorn ceilings”. Asbestos is a fibrous material that is found in adhesives, and that can be released into the air via abrasions. When inhaled, asbestos can cause cancer and other chronic conditions. With that said, it is vital to remove asbestos as they tend to deteriorate over time. Likewise, if the property’s structure is damaged, that puts the people inside it at risk of breathing in the fibers.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), real estate investors should take steps to make sure that asbestos is removed. The OSHA regulations apply to renovations, wherein the owner should provide the workers with the proper protective gear. They should also conduct a test for asbestos, and make sure that they take reasonable steps to keep their tenants away from the risk. For instance, if you need to remove the asbestos while your tenants are in the rental, you need to block the work area or ask your tenants to stay at an Airbnb.
Mold growth is unsightly, but it can also be dangerous to tenants that are susceptible to its toxins. Although the topic of mold isn’t found in federal law, states have passed laws that obligate rental property owners to get rid of the mold. Be sure to ask your property management company if there are certain laws you need to be aware of.
It would also be wise to include a clause in your lease agreement, stating that if the mold is caused by the tenant’s actions, you wouldn’t be held liable for it. However, if the mold was already there before the tenant moved in, you will have to cover the costs to remove it. You may also be made to pay for your tenant’s medical bills.
Millions of homes have surprisingly high levels of radon, a radioactive gas that’s emitted by the soil. It can get into the home through gaps in the foundation, where it will build up over time and become toxic to tenants. This, of course, can be mitigated by opening the windows and sealing off the cracks in the foundation.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is in every state in the U.S. but it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, you should be worried if a specialist tells you that its levels are excessive. In that case, your rental property will be deemed uninhabitable, and you’ll have to remove the problem as soon as possible. Radon exposure can cause serious concerns, particularly in properties that do not have proper ventilation.
If the radon test yields a positive result, you may have to move your tenant out temporarily. Furthermore, you may have to invest in a radon vent to prevent gases from making their way into the rental property.
Keep in mind that if you fail to conduct a radon test, you may be sued by your tenants. Even if you do conduct a radon test but you do nothing to address it, you will undoubtedly be in trouble with the law. If you think your home has radon problems, a South Florida property management company can help check your property and correct it as soon as possible.
#4 Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that’s a byproduct of combustion. Inhaling high concentrations of CO can be dangerous – in fact, carbon monoxide poisoning can bring about migraines, brain damage, and although rare, death.
To avoid liability, make sure that your rental property is well-ventilated. If your tenants can’t always open their windows, invest in individual air vents for the appliances that run on gas, including gas heaters and gas ranges.
By law, you are also obligated to provide your tenants with a carbon monoxide detector and to replace its batteries regularly. If you’re a long-distance landlord, you can delegate these tasks to a property management company that can check if the CO detectors are in good working order throughout the year.
#5 Bed Bugs
This is why it’s a bad idea to put second-hand furniture in your South Florida rental property. There’s a good chance that they’re crawling with bed bugs.
If you suspect bed bugs in your rental property, schedule an inspection as soon as possible. The inspector will determine if it is indeed a bed bug. In case it is, you have to cover the costs to remove the pests – as long as they weren’t brought onto the property by your tenants. Remember, you’re only responsible for the removal of the vermin that was already there when they moved in. If your tenants brought in bed bug-infested furniture, they will have to cover the costs.
A property management company such as Luxury Property Care can help make sure that these environmental risks aren’t in your real estate investment. Partner with us today to benefit from a hands-on team that’s prepared to handle all problems related to mold, asbestos, and more. We’ll review the rules and regulations on your behalf, so you can avoid the liabilities that come with being a real estate investor.