Question: I have a home that I am going to rent out that has a hot tub spa in the back yard. I can see how this will be a great feature for my renter, but I am concerned about safety for tenants with children. Also, I am worried about my liability for any other health problems that may arise from the tenant’s use of the spa. What is my responsibility to a tenant regarding the use of this amenity? I appreciate any advice you may give me. Thank you.
Landlord’s attorney Smith replies:
There is nothing patently illegal about renting a property with a hot tub to a family with children. The tenant takes on the responsibility for supervision and use of the hot tub spa. You are not required to include the spa. You could have it removed prior to rental. It would be a good idea to include an addendum making full disclosure, and making sure the resident understands to supervise and carefully control access to the spa. Under these circumstances, I would also encourage you to have the tenant obtain renter’s insurance, including liability coverage, and of course, make sure your insurance for non-owner occupied is paid in full. Since this is not a public spa, you are not required to comply with the building codes in terms of notices.
Property Manager Griswold replies:
I think you are wise to consider the special benefits and risks associated with offering a hot tub spa as part of the amenities of your rental property. Clearly, prospective tenants will be attracted to a rental property with a spa. The real issue is the additional risks that you incur as a landlord. I would make sure that you speak with your insurance agent to ensure that you have the correct coverage and adequate policy limits under your rental owner’s package policy. There are undoubtedly higher risks associated with having a hot tub, swimming pool, or any water feature, and you need to take appropriate measures to safeguard this element of the property. Remember that you cannot discriminate against children and so you should always assume that children will be present. Even if you ultimately rent or lease the property to a tenant without children, they are very likely to have children on the property as guests. Another important consideration is the proper operation of the hot tub, as hot tubs require ongoing testing of the water and systems and routine maintenance. I would suggest that you retain and pay for a professional hot tub maintenance service contract to ensure that the hot tub operates properly. This will not only protect your investment, but also avoid any allegations that the hot tub created a health and safety situation, such as contaminated water or even a more serious life-threatening electrical or potential drowning hazard. You should also provide the tenants with the manufacturer’s operating manual and all safety and warning literature. It also would be a very good idea to have your maintenance service contractor actually walk the tenants through the basic operational steps including a list of warning signs that would necessitate an emergency call. Hot tubs or spas are great amenities that tenants enjoy but you simply need to make sure that you retain control of that aspect of the property. While there is nothing incorrect or illegal with Mr. Smith’s suggestion that you delegate the responsibility for the hot tub to the tenants, I have a much more pragmatic view as a property owner and manager and share your concerns about liability. In my opinion, to rent or lease the property without taking the steps I have outlined is not a risk worth taking for the relatively nominal extra rent you will collect.
Question: If there is a month-to-month lease and rent is due on the first of the month, if the renter gives notice on the 15th, is he only liable for 15 days of the next month’s rent?
Property Manager Griswold replies:
A tenant on a month-to-month rental agreement may give a 30-day written notice of intent to vacate at any time and they would only be responsible for the rent up to and including the last day of occupancy–i.e. 30 days. Thus, in your example of a tenant giving his or her 30-day notice on the 15th of the month, the tenant would only owe rent until approximately the 14th of the following month; the variable being how many days are in the particular month the notice is given–28, 30 or 31 days.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies” and co-author of “Real Estate Investing for Dummies,” and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant’s Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.”
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