Require Absent Resident’s Authorization Before Giving Visitor Access to Unit
Residents frequently need you to let friends, relatives, or workers into their units when they aren’t home. But it’s risky to do that since you could inadvertently be letting a criminal into one of your residents’ units. If something happens to the resident or her property, you could be held responsible in a lawsuit. On the other hand, you don’t want to refuse access to a resident’s friend coming to apartment-sit, or to a housekeeper just trying to do her job.
Deciding whether to let someone into a resident’s unit shouldn’t be a judgment call for your staff. To protect your residents from harm and yourself from liability, require residents to give you their written authorization to give their visitors access, says Atlanta attorney Robert P. Hein. We’ve provided a Model Form: Use Authorization Form Before Letting Anyone into Residents’ Units, which you can adapt for your own use.
To avoid being held liable for allowing the wrong person into a unit in the resident’s absence, you must obtain the resident’s written authorization. Tell your residents about your policy by explaining it in your site rules or resident handbook.
When explaining the policy, start off by letting your residents know that you don’t intend to infringe on their freedom to have whatever visitors they choose. But security and privacy concerns require that residents help you control nonresidents at site. As a result, you expect residents’ help in strictly controlling the presence of nonresidents at the site because you’re concerned about your residents’ security and privacy.
To help balance security and privacy concerns, explain that visitors aren’t allowed into a unit without the resident’s written authorization. Explain that if a resident wants you to let someone into her unit while she’s not home, she’ll need to fill out a Visitor Authorization Form. Stress that you won’t make any exceptions, so residents should plan ahead and make arrangements for visitors before leaving.
Require Visitors to Have Written Authorization
Have your residents give you an authorization form explaining whom you may allow to enter their units and at what times. Your form should cover the following:
Resident’s identity. State the resident’s name and address.
Visitor’s identity. Say that the resident grants permission to a particular person to enter her unit when she’s not home. Leave a blank space for the resident to write the visitor’s name.
Visiting dates and times. Say when the visitor is allowed to enter. If the visitor is a short-term guest, have the resident write the dates and times the person is allowed to enter. If the authorization is for a regular visitor, such as a housekeeper, have the resident write the authorized time, such as “every Thursday.”
Key policy. Say whether the resident will give a key to the visitor or the manager will hold the key and release it to the visitor. If the resident gives you a key to hold, be sure to keep it in a secure place and check the identification of the person who comes to collect it.
Liability disclaimer. Say that you’re not responsible for any damage, loss, or injury to the resident or her belongings. Even with the authorization form, mistakes can happen. Your staff might give the key to the wrong person, or the person the resident intended to allow in might burglarize the unit. So be sure to tell residents that by granting written authorization to enter their units, they’re absolving you of any responsibility for anything that might go wrong, says Hein.
Changes to Visitor Authorization Form. Say that any changes to the Visitor Authorization Form must be submitted in writing. If the resident wants to change any of the information on the form, she’ll have to submit a new form. If the resident wants to revoke the visitor’s authorization, she must write you a letter saying so.
Robert P. Hein, Esq.: Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood, and Williams, P.A., 2970 Clairmont Rd., Park Central, Ste. 220, Atlanta, GA 30329; www.apartmentlaw.com.
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