Managing Top Property Liability Exposures

As a commercial property owner or manager, maintaining the condition of your property can help keep it occupied and protect your business from liability. Slippery floors, inadequate parking lot lighting, harsh seasonal weather, and more can present risks to your employees, tenants, and visitors as well as to your locations and the items inside. Learn more about the top property liability exposures and how to address them.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

The most frequent and costly insurance loss for building/property owners is related to slips, trips, and falls. Take the following actions to better protect your business from these types of risks:

  • Install slip-resistant floor and walkway surfaces, and keep them clean and dry. Pay special attention to floors at entrances and near restrooms, water coolers, and cafeterias.
  • Keep stairways and walking areas free from clutter and debris. Make frequent inspections to monitor and improve conditions.
  • Make sure your stairways and walkway surfaces comply with all applicable local, state, and federal building codes, regulations, and standards.
  • Select entrance matting and surface material that match the expected environment (including weather conditions) and traffic load.
  • Keep an eye on changing weather conditions, as snow, ice, and rain can accumulate quickly, causing slippery surfaces. Clean up moisture that may get tracked indoors by umbrellas and boots, and place appropriate signage to indicate wet surfaces.
  • Maintain exterior walkways, grounds, and parking lots to ensure that they’re in good condition and free of foreign objects, trash, clutter, ice, and snow.
  • Make sure outdoor lighting fixtures are well-maintained and structurally stable.

Record Keeping

It’s important to keep records of all inspections and to maintain up-to-date certificates for liability insurance from each of your tenants. See that each tenant’s policy names you as an “additional insured,” and work with your legal counsel and insurance agent to review these certificates to ensure that you’re adequately protected. Avoid allowing tenant occupancy until evidence is verified and in your possession.

Fire

A fire can cause property damage as well as injuries and fatalities. Take the following actions to protect your business:

  • Understand your tenants’ exposures to fire and related dangers. Different activities may require different controls. For example, flammable liquids should be stored in approved cabinets, and deep-fat fryers should be operated only with a proper extinguishing system in place.
  • Clean and inspect hoods and ventilation systems regularly.
  • Have your fire extinguishers inspected and serviced by a qualified contractor annually and after use.
  • Conduct annual main drain and flow testing on your sprinkler systems.
  • Ensure that exits are clearly marked and not obstructed.
  • Notify tenants of emergency egress routes and emergency response plans. 

In addition, review the resources and reference materials created by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on fire prevention, detection, and suppression. Be sure to consider your exposures to fire that could put your customers and staff at risk.

Heavy Rain and Snow

Roof collapse can be caused by heavy rainstorms or snowfall when water pools on the roof. Have a roofer periodically inspect the condition of your roof before the rainy/winter seasons to ensure that it is free of leaves and debris. Evaluate roof drains, gutters, and downspouts to ensure that they can adequately handle a heavy downpour or quick snow melt.

Crime

Provide appropriate security for all areas of the building(s) and grounds. Conduct frequent property inspections of both the interior and the exterior, and document your findings in writing. Work with your legal counsel and local law enforcement to examine the crime patterns in your area. Use this information to determine where and how security features and provisions may need to be enhanced or upgraded. Consider using exterior lot and walkway lighting, video monitoring and surveillance of entries and common areas, special security services, and perimeter access protection.

Service Providers

Service providers (such as building contractors, security personnel, electricians, etc.) performing work on your premises can create additional loss exposures. For example, a plumber using a torch might start a fire, or a landscaper might leave tools that someone trips over. Here are a few of the many ways you can reduce the risk of service provider accidents:

  • Check vendor references, and create a list of preapproved vendors that have provided you with proof of liability and workers compensation insurance.
  • Verify all current vendor license numbers using your state’s website.
  • Obtain a written contract (that is legally authorized) before work begins that verifies your insurance protection.

It’s important to also be aware of your neighbors’ potential fire and liability exposures. By proactively planning for the top property liability exposures, you can help reduce the likelihood of an accident or injury.

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.