April 8, 2016
Spring is the start of outdoor party season, and also a time when many homeowners put their properties up for sale. The welcome return of good weather makes people long to spend more time outdoors, and open house visitors often like to tour the yard as well as the indoor parts of a listed property. Property owners—and sellers—often have a legal duty to prevent foreseeable injuries to guests and other people who enter the property. Sometimes, the property owner is legally liable even if the dangerous condition was unknown before the injury occurred. Here are three important homeowner safety tips to keep your family, guests, and prospective buyers safe at parties and during open houses: Inspect Your Property Before the Event Whether you’re planning an indoor party, a poolside bash, or an open house for a property that’s on the market, take the time to look for hazards before the event begins. Remember to check both indoor and outdoor spaces, even if you don’t expect the guests to use the yard (or house). Repair or Screen off Damaged or Dangerous Areas If your visual inspection reveals damage—for example, broken or rotting deck boards just revealed by melting winter snow—try to repair the damage before your party or open house begins. If time is short, screen off the dangerous area and post a warning sign where guests and visitors can see. Closing off entire rooms might work for a party, but if you’re planning an open house, repair the hazards if you can. Blocking off parts of the property is a major turn-off for prospective buyers. Install Pool Gates and Fences, and Inspect Pool Covers Carefully Swimming pools make for great summer fun, but pools are also hazardous, especially for children. Before your party or open house, make sure your pool has legally-compliant fencing and inspect the fence and gates. Gates should close automatically, fasten securely, and latch high enough from the ground to prevent a child from reaching them. Make Sure all Staircases Have Stable, Functional Railings Check the stability and security of stairs, and especially staircase railings, before a party or open house. Railings should be secure, and capable of holding the weight of a leaning adult or child. Remember: children, elderly, and disabled people may need to use the railings, and broken or wobbly handrails create a serious threat of falls. A simple walk-through of your home before a party or open house can help keep guests and potential buyers safe and happy, leading to happy events and hopefully a successful sale.