Does your not for profit organization provide a place to sleep for members of your community? Maybe you run a full-time shelter, or maybe your organization accommodates others on a need-basis. Regardless, allowing individuals to inhabit your property exposes you to several liabilities, many of which vary in severity depending on state and local laws. Read on below and ensure you’re taking the proper steps for protecting your organization.
In many cases, and especially if you’re receiving public funding, you’re responsible for maintaining certain standards of habitability for those staying on your property. It’s important to be familiar with all local codes, including fire codes, health codes, tax codes and electrical codes. Requirements may include:
- Structurally sound buildings
- Sanitary conditions
- Clean water supply
- Adequate air quality
- Sufficient space and security for each occupant
- Lack of lead-based paint hazards
- A certain number of smoke detectors
If a visitor to your shelter or organization suffers harm from unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and subsequently decides to sue you, you could be held negligent and be responsible for damages. As a property owner, you’re legally responsible for preventing visitors from being injured or sickened on your property – this is called reasonable care. When someone is injured on your property as a result of your failure to repair or warn about a danger on the property, you’re liable for damages. The extent to which you’re liable depends on case history in each state.
Protecting your organization from this exposure could comprise a variety of actions, including:
- Proper warning. For some hazards, a simple posting can satisfy your legal duty.
- If you’re able to predict something that could cause sickness or injuries (a bad water heater, a faulty furnace or other hazards), prevent those problems from hurting those staying on your property by fixing problems immediately and maintaining the facility properly.
- Taking precautions against careless or criminal conduct on the part of a third party. This may include providing a reasonably sufficient number of people to protect against it, hiring security or installing security systems, gates or fences.
Examine your organization and determine which preventive measures are appropriate to protect against liability. It’s important to remember that the degree to which you could be held liable is largely dependent on your jurisdiction and the outcome of past cases. In addition to taking necessary preventive steps, contact an Assurance expert to ensure you’re covered.
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