How to Prevent Residents from Using Staff to Run Errands
Residents may ask employees to do personal tasks such drop off their dry cleaning or fix a stereo or some other personal equipment. This puts owners in a delicate position because, on one hand, allowing such employee behavior opens you up to liability risks, and on the other hand, barring employees from running errands for residents may send the wrong message—that your staff isn’t as helpful as it might be.
Letting employees run errands for residents might seem harmless; it might even seem like a nice way to promote goodwill. But what you might not realize is that there are major liability risks involved. The number of things residents may ask employees to do is endless and so is the number of ways employees can mess up while doing them.
For example, a resident may ask an employee to deposit a benefits check for her and the employee might lose the check. Or when installing a bookcase for a resident, a shelf might accidentally fall and hurt the resident. If an accident occurs while an employee is running a resident’s errand, you may also be drawn into a lawsuit—by the resident, the employee, or anyone else involved in the mishap. Staff members are legally your agents, and you are responsible for their behavior and any damages that result while they are performing their jobs.
Although it’s true that running an errand for a resident isn’t part of the job description, courts may still find that the employee was acting “within the scope of employment” and that you’re liable for damages.
Use House Rule to Ban Errands Diplomatically
Your staff, trying to be helpful to residents, may not want to turn down requests for personal favors. Or they may welcome the opportunity to supplement their salary by doing some chores or performing a service.
If you come out and tell residents that they cannot use employees to run errands, you could undo a lot of the work your staff has put into cultivating goodwill among the residents. Therefore, a house rule that diplomatically bars residents from using employees to run errands is the best approach. You want residents to know that your staff is service-oriented, but you don’t want them to expect staff to be at their immediate service.
Residents may also pay staff for personal jobs done on the side. Therefore, prohibit these actions in the rule. Here’s a model rule you can adapt to include in your house rules.
At ABC Site, we want to serve you. But please understand that Owner’s employees have specific duties and may not attend to Residents’ personal services, repairs, errands, or chores. Please do not ask them to. Do not give cash to any employee for any services, repairs, errands, or chores.
Tell Staff Not to Run Residents’ Errands
Dealing with residents is one part of the solution. You must also set a policy and communicate it to staff. Prohibit them from doing any personal services, chores, errands, or repairs for residents.
Tell your maintenance staff to follow the policy. If residents call and request employees to do a personal job or errand for them, tell staff members to politely say no. Have them explain your policy and the reason for it. Here’s a Model Policy for your employee handbook. It prohibits employees from doing personal tasks for residents and gives them a few examples. It also tells them not to accept cash for any task. Be sure to talk to your attorney about using it for your site.
Employees shall not perform any personal services, chores, errands, or repairs for Residents, including, but not limited to, moving cars, handling furniture, or cleaning. Any deviation from this rule is strictly prohibited. Employees shall not accept any cash or other compensation from residents for any services, chores, errands, or repairs.