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Child-proofing your rental property: A guide for property managers and landlords

Legal Concerns Maintaining Your Properties

The Fair Housing Act prohibits property managers and landlords from discriminating against prospective residents on the basis of familial status. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that this also includes restricting kids to certain areas of the property. Even the act of alerting a tenant to a dangerous stairwell and suggesting a first-floor dwelling for the safety of a toddler can be construed as discrimination, and landlords and property managers have been hauled into court for similar offenses. That said, if a child does get hurt on your property, you could be held liable.

If you have a family about to move in with a small child, consider child-proofing your rental property to protect your company and ensure the safety of all of your residents—even the littlest ones.

Child-Proofing Your Rental Property & Community

  • Contact information: Prepare an emergency information sheet with updated addresses and phone numbers for local emergency rooms, pediatric centers, the poison control hotline, and other relevant phone numbers. Also note contact information for your community’s service staff, if any. Attach this document to the refrigerator, post it just inside the unit’s front door, or include it with your tenant welcome package.
  • Cabinets: Install cabinet locks—especially for ground-level cabinets that commonly contain hazardous household chemicals.
  • Fire safety: Double-check smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. Children have been known to accidentally set fires, and parents need sufficient warning in the event of a fire to rescue their children before leaving the building.
  • Garages: Install garage door sensors that stop doors from closing if they detect an obstruction, such as a small child. Hundreds of kids are injured by garage doors each year, and new garage doors tend to be worthwhile from an ROI perspective.
  • Outlets: Install wall plug covers, or give some to incoming parents.
  • Parking lots: Put up speed limit signs and speed bumps to protect children playing in parking areas.
  • Pools: Check the fencing and gating around pools. Ensure that gates are self-closing and that latches are lockable or out of reach. Child-proofed fencing should be no less than 4 ½ feet high, and rails should be no more than 4 inches apart–with nothing that enables little hands and feet to climb over. Chain link fences should have a mesh size not exceeding 1 ¼ inches—unless you install slatting. If there are slats, they should be not more than 1 ¾ inches apart, based on the average foot width of a small child. There should be no more than 4 inches of clearance between the ground and the bottom rail of the fencing. Also, install non-slip surfacing. You can put up all the ‘no running’ signs around the pool you want, but kids are going to run. Make sure no one slips needlessly—and if they do, show that you took reasonable and prudent precautions.
  • RailingsDouble-check banisters and railings of all stairs, balconies, porches, and walkways. Kids can be expected to hang and pull on them, so shake them and make sure that they’re sturdy and well-mounted. Inspect them for gaps in the railings and repair them promptly.
  • Windows: Install cordless blinds to prevent asphyxiation hazards. Also, install window latches and screen locks on windows, particularly those on upper floors.

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How do you keep kids safe in your community? Have you taken any steps toward child-proofing your rental property? Tell us in the comments!

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Jason Van Steenwyk

Jason is a freelance writer and editor, as well as an avid fiddler. His articles have been published in a number of real estate publications including Wealth and Retirement Planner and Bankrate.com. He lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his cat, Sasha, and an unknown number of musical instruments.