A landlord’s responsibility is to ensure that visitors and residents in rental properties are residing in a safe and hazard free place. Some of the most common injuries across the country are those that occur from slip and fall accidents. When a floor surface is not adequately cleaned, installed, or cared for, it may result in a slip and fall that can cause someone to get injured, and launch a lawsuit that landlords can’t avoid.
What is a Slip, Trip and Fall Exactly? Slip and fall accidents, or slip, trip and falls, take place frequently, with more than 8 million visits to emergency rooms across the country for slip and fall every year. Broken bones, dislocated joints, head injuries, sprained muscles, and more can all result from a slip and fall on a rental property. There are a number of reasons why people slip and fall in rental properties, and many of them can be prevented with a proactive approach by landlords to minimize hazards on the property. Here are a few common causes of slip and fall accidents:
Contamination of the floor surface, like water, dust, construction debris, sand, oil, grease, etc.
Poor condition of flooring, like worn carpet or warped linoleum
Transitioning from one surface to another, like from carpeted halls to tile lobby, changes in elevation
Physical limitations in mobility, such as those due to old age, disability or inebriation
Running, jumping or playing around, such as by the pool area or playing on stairs
Not paying attention, such as looking at a phone or carrying too many groceries at once
Poor footwear, such as worn or slippery soles, high heels, or loose shoes like flip-flops.
While most people understand that having some kind of substance on the floor, like water, will cause a slip and fall accident, the other reasons are less obvious but can contribute just as much to an accident. Recognizing these dangers and doing everything possible to minimize them is important for landlords to do.
Areas with High Risk for Slip and Falls In a multi-unit complex, there are several areas that pose a high risk for resident slip and fall accidents, so landlords, property managers and maintenance personnel should regularly check for hazards.
Here are some of the most common areas for slip and fall accidents:
Stairs and ramps
Food preparation areas
Areas with dripping condensation or leaking pipes
Anywhere the flooring changes in texture and level
In order to prevent these areas from becoming a hazard, landlords should inspect them carefully and decide whether any action is necessary to keep residents and guests safe. Action might be considered as better cleaning, repairing, replacing or otherwise improving the flooring conditions in these areas and throughout the property.
What Can Landlords Do? If landlords take a proactive approach to minimizing slip and fall hazards throughout the rental property, the less likely it is that tenants will have an accident and even if they do, the landlord is in a good position to show due diligence in minimizing risks of slip and falls.
There are 8 things that landlords can do in order to prevent slip and fall accidents from happening as well as aid in preparing a defense in the event of litigation from a slip and fall.
Appropriate floor surface: Making sure the right flooring is being used for each area of the property is important. For example, slippery tiles in the pool area is not nearly as safe or effective at preventing slip and falls as textured concrete. Making sure that each flooring surface is appropriate for the area it is intended is the best place to start.
Proper installation: Whether its carpet, tile, laminate or resilient flooring, proper installation is a big part of ensuring a safe walkway. For example, poorly installed carpeting can ripple or wear unevenly, boosting the risk of tripping. Uneven tiles can create an uneven surface that can catch footwear.
Regular inspections: Whether it’s done by the landlord, property manager or maintenance worker, there should be a regular inspection of the property’s flooring surfaces. Frequently, someone needs to walk the property and look for slip and fall dangers, such as poor lighting on stairs, blocked areas, torn carpeting, curling stair treads, wrinkled floor mats, broken tiles and so forth, oil and grease on parking surfaces. Each inspection should be documented and filed away in the event it is needed for a lawsuit defense.
Proper maintenance: Most people think that any old cleaning plan will do for all kinds of flooring, but each type of flooring requires special attention. Overuse of chemical products can cause floor surfaces to become even more slippery or sticky, while proper cleaning products can actually increase the slip resistance of certain types of flooring.
Regular maintenance: A daily and weekly floor maintenance program will ensure that flooring surfaces are kept in top condition. Dust mopping, wet mopping, vacuuming and more should be done on a regular basis with the best products, tools and equipment. Also, the floor cleaning schedule should take place during off hours where there is less traffic to worry about.
Proper signage: Maintenance workers should have the proper signs to alert people as to what is going on. If the floors are newly mopped, one or more “Wet Floor” signs should be set out. Similarly, clearly posted warnings and caution notices in hazardous areas, like the pool deck, are necessary to remind tenants about the risks. Elevation changes in walkways should be painted with contrasting color to draw attention to it.
Effective spill plan: In the event of a spill or other instance of a foreign substance on the floor, landlords and maintenance workers should have an effective plan in place to take care of unexpected spills. Spills should be quickly marked with signs while the proper equipment is retrieved to clean it up.
Proper documentation: In order to ensure that all the proper floor cleaning, maintenance and inspections are taking place, landlords should insist on and keep files of regular documentation. This can be a checklist or a short written report. Documenting when each area is being cleaned, what cleaning products are used, notes about irregularities, accident reports, outside maintenance and repair notes, and more can really help during a lawsuit to show that every care was taken to minimize the risk of slip and falls.
With all these steps in place, landlords can demonstrate that they have actively implemented an effective strategy to reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents in every way possible. Even the best plan cannot prevent accidents, as footwear, attentiveness, and behavior on the part of the resident can cause a slip, trip or fall on the best of surfaces. However, updated regular records of the property’s slip and fall strategies can reduce the landlord’s liability greatly in the event of an accident.