Use Common Area Rules to Protect Site and Reduce Risk of Liability
Your common areas play a major role in your site’s success. They’re the areas that your residents share and prospective renters see first. But your residents may cause problems in your common areas, inadvertently or otherwise. They may leave their garbage out, store personal property there, or act inappropriately. Besides being an eyesore and a nuisance, these things can leave you open to liability. For example, a stroller blocking an exit could violate your local fire code, and a person who trips over it could sue you for injuries. As such, addressing resident conduct in common areas in your site rules is a good idea. We’ll give you Model Rules: Avoid Common Area Problems with Site Rules that you can adapt for your own use.
How Common Area Rules Help
You don’t want residents or their guests making nuisances of themselves in your common areas or leaving their belongings in them. Common area rules remind residents that they’re responsible for their actions there. If residents understand the rules up front, it’s less likely you’ll have problems down the line.
What to Say in Rules
Your rules should do five things:
1. Define common areas. Members may not understand what common areas are. Tell them that common areas include hallways, stairwells, lobbies, laundry rooms, basement areas, courtyards, lawns, pathways, and any amenity areas, such as playgrounds or sport courts [Rules, par. 1].
2. Bar residents from leaving garbage or laundry in common areas. Residents sometimes leave their garbage or laundry in hallways, basements, or entrances, for later collection. But these areas are for the use and enjoyment of the entire site. They’re not loading zones for a few inconsiderate individuals [Rules, par. 2].
3. Bar residents from leaving personal property unattended in common areas, and give yourself the right to remove it. Residents sometimes leave bicycles chained to railings, store baby strollers in breezeways, or leave children’s toys in lawns. Besides being unsightly, these objects can be a hazard to other residents. Your site could be sued if someone trips over a bicycle chained to a stairwell and such objects may also present a fire hazard if they block any passageways. So tell residents that they must keep all their personal possessions inside their units [Rules, par. 3].
Warn your residents that if they leave personal property in a common area, you may remove it, even if you need to cut a lock on it to do so. Say that you’ll store the property at the resident’s expense, and that the resident must pay the storage fee to retrieve the property [Rules, par. 3].
4. Bar residents from creating nuisance in common areas. Most leases ban residents from creating a nuisance or engaging in conduct that bothers or offends other residents. But residents may not fully understand that this rule applies to their conduct outside their units, as well as inside. To make sure residents know that they need to behave themselves in common areas and to make sure you can take action against those who don’t ban nuisance conduct in common areas. The ban should also apply to guests [Rules, par. 4].
To help residents understand this rule, give examples. Say that nuisances include loud noises, skating, riding skateboards or bicycles in the roadways, and playing music without headphones.
5. Hold residents responsible for behavior of their guests, etc. When family members, overnight guests, and other people invited onto the premises by the resident break the rules, the resident should be held accountable. To hold the resident responsible, say in your rules that he’s “jointly and severally liable” for violations by his guests and family [Rules, par. 5].
See The Model Tools For This Article
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