Landlords are prohibited by law from discriminating against renters based on the presence of children. That would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act’s provisions against discrimination on the basis of familial status.
Even the act of alerting tenants with children to a dangerous stairwell and suggesting a first-floor dwelling for their safety can amount to unlawful discrimination. Similarly, setting age limits on pool areas has resulted in HUD regulation enforcement action against property managers and landlords.
That said, if a child does get hurt on your property, the landlord or property manager could be held liable. If you have a family with small children moving in to one of your units, consider childproofing your apartment. Taking these simple, cost-effective steps to protect yourself and ensure the safety of all of your residents–even the littlest ones.
Childproofing Your Apartment: 13 Helpful Tips
- Double-check banisters and railings of all stairways, balconies, and walkways. Expect kids to hang and pull on them. Wiggle them to make sure that they’re sturdy and well-mounted. Inspect the railings for gaps, and repair them promptly.
- Check fences and gates around the pool. Ensure that gates are self-closing, and that latches are lockable or high enough that small children cannot easily unlatch them. Fencing should be no less than 4 1/2 feet high, and railings should be no more than 4 inches apart, with nothing for little hands and feet to climb on. If there are slats, they should be not more than 1 3/4 inches apart, based on the average width of a small child’s foot. If the fence is constructed properly, a child won’t be able to get a good foothold and climb the fence. There should be no more than 4 inches of clearance between the ground and the bottom rail. Take grass into account, which can make it appear that there is less bottom clearance than there really is.
- Chain link fences around pools and other potentially hazardous areas should either have slats, or have a mesh size not exceeding 1 1/4 inches.
- Download and read this document from PoolSafely.gov for more information on how to construct standard child-proof fencing.
- Remove and replace blinds and drapes with long cords that can cause children to asphyxiate. Use cordless blinds instead.
- Prepare an emergency information sheet with up-to-date addresses and phone numbers for local emergency rooms, pediatric centers, poison control hotlines, and building security. Attach it to the refrigerator or inside of the front door, or include it with the tenant’s welcome package.
- Have non-slip surfaces installed around the dwelling and pool. You can install as many “no running” signs around the pool as you want, but kids are still going to run. Remove any unnecessary slipping hazards–if kids do fall and injure themselves, you want to be able to show that you took reasonable and prudent precautions.
- Install outlet covers, or give some to incoming parents as part of their welcome packet.
- Install cabinet locks–especially for ground-level cabinets containing hazardous household chemicals.
- Put up speed limit signs and speed bumps. Children are going to be playing in the parking areas, so setting a 5 mph speed limit and installing speed bumps is a reasonable and prudent precaution.
- Install garage door sensors. Garage doors injure hundreds of children each year. Some of these garage door injuries are fatal. A sensor can detect when there is something obstructing the path of the garage door and prevent the door from closing. This may prevent a child from being fatally crushed; but there are additional hazards presented by aging garage doors, so you may want to replace them entirely. You should also consider replacing aging garage doors altogether. New garage doors do tend to be worthwhile when it comes to the value they add relative to the costs of installation.
- Install window latches and screen locks on all upstairs windows.
- Double-check smoke detectors and sprinkler systems. Children have been known to accidentally set fires, and parents need more warning in the event of a fire to rescue their children before leaving the building.
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, Jason Van Steenwyk started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.