The Value of Documented Property Inspections
It’s an all-too-common scenario: a resident of a manufactured community claims that he or she was injured on the property as the result of improper upkeep and files a claim – and management can’t effectively show that the area in question was adequately maintained and the insurance carrier has to compensate the plaintiff. In fact, it’s one of the biggest liabilities that these communities face. It can be difficult to prove a negative, and owners can be left holding the bag even if they aren’t at fault.
While there is no foolproof way to avoid this situation, a formal program to inspect properties on a regular basis can dramatically reduce risk – but the inspections need to be documented so that insurers can offer solid proof to counteract claims of negligence or improper maintenance. Here are three steps to create an inspection program that will not only keep residents and visitors safe, but will also provide legal protection in the event of a claim or suit:
- Create an inspection program and put it in writing. This can include a list of all locations that need to be inspected, as well as a schedule for checking for problems. For example, stairs (which are a major source of slip-and-fall claims) should be checked on a regular basis to make sure that railings are secure and that there are proper treads in place.
- Require maintenance crews to formally document their inspections. By logging all repairs and inspections, property owners will be able to prove that areas are well maintained at all times and that they have made safety a priority.
- Take photos of potential problem areas. When someone claims that a particular area was not properly maintained, a picture can be worth 1000 words – and a series of pictures taken over time that document that an area was in good shape can be powerful tools when it comes to contesting a claim of negligence.
Spurious claims of injuries caused by poor maintenance will always happen, but a bit of documentation over a long period of time can dramatically lower risk and make it easier to prove that a property was not at fault.