In an effort to attract the best tenants and beat out the competition, you may want to offer unique amenities. Some common “perks” may include a spacious kitchen, upgrades to flooring and counter-tops, or perhaps lawn service built into the cost of the monthly rent. During the summer season, some investors highlight decks, pools, or maybe even a tree house.

Adding a trampoline or quality play equipment to the back yard may be nice for a family. However, these recreational items can also present some serious risks. The question is, does the prospective fun outweigh the potential danger? Should you keep these items on your property or remove them?


Benefits for Your Tenant

A beautiful deck provides a nice place to enjoy your morning coffee or breakfast, a fun place to entertain friends and family for dinners or a hangout, or a place to get some R&R or a suntan. Bottom line, decks extend the living space to the outdoors without the risk of getting all itchy!

Injuries – The Stats

  • A 2003 study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that 224,000 people in the U.S. were injured due to a deck or porch.
  • Of those injuries the CPSC mentioned, 33,000 were a result of a structural failure or collapse. 18,000 were considered “serious” and included things like head trauma, concussion, major fractures to the back and paralysis.
  • Most injuries were preventable if a proper deck inspection had performed each year by a qualified professional.

Risks & Problem Areascollapsed deck

  • Every deck made of wood will eventually fail and need to be replaced. Wooden decks have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years depending on climate and level of maintenance.
  • Poor construction is the number one reason for deck failure. The most common point of failure for decks is at the connection to the house. They often fail because the deck is not connected to the house by the proper method.
  • The second most likely cause of deck failure is wood rot. When the moisture content in wood reaches ~19%, rot begins. Treated wood lasts longer, but it will also eventually rot.
  • Reports from people who experience deck collapse from rot say there is no warning. The deck doesn’t creak or moan – it simply collapses.

Insurance Will Pay for It, Right?

Maybe, maybe not. If a deck fails suddenly and someone is injured, you may have coverage to replace the structure itself if that deck failure isn’t related to “Wear-and-Tear.” Wear-and-Tear is a standard exclusion in all property insurance policies as insurance is intended to cover sudden, unforeseen events – not for reimbursement for routine maintenance expenses.

As for covering someone’s injuries, if they find you, the property owner, liable for the deck failure, your insurance can be there to help cover an injured third party’s medical expenses. In that case it may also reimburse your personal legal expenses for defense. However, if the cause of the deck collapse was faulty construction and you are not liable, you’d better be sure your contractor was properly insured. In that case, their General Liability insurance comes into play as they are the party at fault.

How to Avoid a Disaster

As a part of the inspection process BEFORE you purchase a property, a deck should be checked for various items such as its structural integrity, railing size and strength, hardware type and condition, staircase issues and general wear and tear such as splintered deck boards or loose fasteners. If any of these items are not in good condition they may need to be repaired, or, if the whole deck is in disrepair, it may be time to replace it. Decks need to be checked every year and any necessary repairs promptly made to avoid injuries. Also, make sure any one you hire is properly licensed and insured.


Benefits for Your Tenant

Most people like pools. They provide a refreshing place to escape the summer heat, provide health benefits if you’re the lap-swimming or pool volleyball type, and are a fun place to socialize. Whether it’s looking forward to lounging poolside with a good book or seeing how long you can hold your breath underwater, the opening of pool season is a time of great anticipation.

Injuries – The Stats

  • Each year there are approximately 5400 pool or spa-related hospital emergency department-treated non-fatal drowning injuries each year.
  • According to a report by the CPSC, children between the ages of 1 and 3 represented 64 percent of estimated non-fatal drowning injuries for 2012-2014 and 65 percent of the reported drownings for 2010-2012 involving children younger than 15 years.
  • Over ½ of reported injuries for children occurred at residential locations.

Risks & Problem Areas

  • little boy climbing on pool coverPools are considered an “attractive nuisance” – an item that is so interesting that it would entice a child into entering another’s property.
  • If you do not abide by local regulations regarding these “nuisances”, you may be held responsible if someone is injured on your property.
  • For example, not putting on a pool cover can have fatal consequences.

Insurance Will Pay for It, Right?

Insurance policies can vary greatly on how they handle coverage for pools. Some policies exclude coverage for both damage to the pool itself and any injuries associated with the pool entirely. Other policies may offer some limited coverage for an additional cost. Bottom line, you CANNOT assume that coverage for your pool is included in your policy, or for that matter, the above-ground pool your tenant decides to erect a week after they move in.

How to Avoid a Disaster

To eliminate the risk entirely, some investors will simply fill in a pool if a property they purchase has one. However, if the property is in a neighborhood where that amenity is expected, a different approach may need to be taken. You will want to make sure that you are in compliance with any local regulations regarding pools. Some require fencing around the pool, depth markings around the sides of the pool deck, and life-saving equipment to be in working order at all times the pool is “open.” If you invest in a small apartment complex that has a pool, bear in mind that extra security measures may be required by law, so educate yourself and follow them carefully!

Trampolines and Play Equipment

Benefits for Your Tenant

Trampolines can be fun for the whole family and play sets can be a lot of fun for the kiddos. I’m sure there may be a parent or two who still send their children outside to play when they are getting too much under foot while cleaning the kitchen or prepping dinner. Getting fresh air feels good to the spirit and having play equipment in the backyard be it for the “bigs” or “littles” can lead to a lot of laughter and good family memories.

Injuries – The Stats

  • From 2009-2014, an estimated 243,000 injuries associated with playground equipment were treated each year in emergency departments, reports the CPSC.
  • In addition to those injuries, 80,000 people in the U.S. are injured on trampolines each year.
  • More than 99% of pediatric trampoline injuries occur on privately owned trampolines located mostly at private residences.
  • Of playground equipment injuries, they most commonly occurred from using the swings, slide or a composite play structure.

Risks & Problem Areastrampoline accident

Common injuries include:

  • Broken bones (Sometimes surgery is needed.)
  • Concussions and other head injuries
  • Sprains/strains
  • Bruises, scrapes, and cuts
  • Head and neck injuries (which can lead to permanent paralysis or death)

About Tree Houses & Zip Lines

You may encounter these items as well, and though they may be fun, they also bring the possibility of severe to life-threatening injuries should someone fall, or in the case of the zip line, smack into the tree at the end of the line with increased speed. As there don’t tend to be local codes that guide the construction of these items, your safest bet is to remove them if you purchase a house with them included.

Insurance Will Pay for It, Right?

Often, insurance policies will exclude coverage for physical damage to “Outdoor Equipment” and any injuries sustained while using a trampoline or other play equipment. You will need to read carefully to see if your policy has any restrictions on coverages relating to these items. If you aren’t sure or are confused about what coverage you do or do not have, don’t wait for something to happen – contact your agent!

How to Avoid a Disaster

Even though it sounds like a downer, trampolines and play equipment may be something you’ll want to consider barring from your property’s yard. The risk is very high for these items and you may be held liable for someone getting injured on your property even if the play equipment belongs to your tenant. Always be sure you specify in your lease if this equipment is allowed. Go over this section with tenants and have them initial the lease to demonstrate you’ve reviewed it together.

Wrap Up – Our Advice for Pools and Outdoor Equipment

While you know your market and your target tenant best, today’s “lesson” is to alert you of the risks associated with pools and outdoor equipment so you can make wise decisions regarding providing or allowing these items at your properties. While all the items discussed can bring both pleasure and pain, consider the risks carefully if you do decide these amenities are worth the risk. We advise you to:

  • Consider the risks and set your rules for pools and outdoor equipment well in advance of allowing someone to step foot on your property.
  • Become familiar with your insurance coverage regarding these items. If you don’t understand something or have questions, consult your agent who will be happy to help you!
  • Carefully inspect all outdoor equipment before purchasing a property and make any necessary repairs before placing a tenant. Or, remove the risk altogether.
  • Consult your legal counsel regarding “attractive nuisances” and how the law handles such items in your area. Take the appropriate measures to abide by those laws.
  • Be very specific in your lease about how pools and outdoor equipment are to be used and who is responsible for upkeep. If you don’t allow these items, spell that out clearly.
  • Review the entire lease with your future tenant and have them initial by those items to signify they understand the terms of the lease….and then make sure you enforce it!