Commercial Property Management Safety for Landlords

Landlords and commercial property managers find themselves beset by all sorts of concerns. Routine repairs and ordinary expenses. Changes in the competitive landscape and shifts in local zoning codes. Tenant complaints and specific compliance tasks. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

Amidst all of these competing concerns comes one that many managers find all too easy to ignore — but one which they ignore to their peril: safety. Unexpected damage to a particular property can do more than merely hurt one’s investment. It can also make you vulnerable to fines or legal action.

What steps can busy landlords and property managers take to ensure that they’re meeting commercial property safety guidelines? Read on to discover some easy-to-follow commercial property security tips and checklists.

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Fire Safety Checklist

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the single greatest cause of nonresidential fires in 2018 was due to cooking (30.6 percent). Not exactly a surprise, but did you know that 11.5 percent of those fires were due to carelessness and 7.8 percent of fires were due to electrical malfunction? That’s a staggering loss of value when you consider how a few easy steps could help save a property. The Insurance Information Institute notes that 2018 U.S. fire losses totaled more than $43 billion.   So what are some of those easy commercial property management safety steps when it comes to fire? They include:

  • Having a clearly visible address that emergency crews can see both at night and during the day
  • Ensuring that your exits are unlocked and not obstructed (which includes the removal of any stored items)
  • Testing all emergency lighting
  • Having a licensed contractor inspect all sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers, and alarms
  • Examine the use of any appliances that produce heat (e.g., portable heaters, light fixtures that could come in contact with combustible materials)
  • Confirm that all exit signs are visible
  • Inspect electrical systems to determine that they are properly labeled and don’t have any exposed wiring
  • Properly storing flammable materials away from heat sources

Gas Safety Checklist

Propane has many advantages as an energy source, which is why numerous commercial properties use it for heating, cooking, and power. But it also carries asphyxiation and explosion risks. That’s why it’s utterly important to pay attention to gas-related commercial property safety rules, such as:

  • Properly storing any portable propane tanks
  • Mapping the location of all in-ground or above-ground tanks
  • Test shut-off valves to ensure that you can halt the flow of propane into the building
  • Installing propane gas detectors that will sound any alarm if gas leaks are detected
  • Testing propane containers to make sure that they aren’t fully depleted, which can lead to rusting and potential future leaks
  • Ensuring that any applicable “No Smoking” signs are posted in gas-related areas
  • Testing hoses and pipes to ensure that they do not leak

Electrical Safety Checklist

Many people lump commercial-property electrical problems in with fire damages, and it’s true that bad wiring can lead to blazes that destroy real estate and lives. But a lack of electrical safety has other distinct hazards. Just consider how the Electrical Safety Foundation International states that more than half of all fatal electrical injuries occur in the construction industry. If you want to keep your tenants and the people who work on your property safe, you can:

  • Answer whether or not there are any energized circuit elements (if so, this can make an inspect itself perilous)
  • Determine if your system(s) meet your local electrical code
  • Determine the voltage of any equipment prior to inspecting it
  • Determine the short circuit and clearing times prior to safely inspecting the circuit
  • Ensure that the wiring methods can support the current electrical load
  • Visually inspect wiring and associated workmanship to document any damage or decay

Asbestos Clearance Checklist

You don’t need to be an expert in litigation to know that asbestos is among the riskiest of all commercial property landlord’s liabilities. RAND Corporation has pointed out that “asbestos litigation is the longest-running mass tort litigation in U.S. history,” costing a total of $70 billion over its history. In order to properly deal with asbestos and ensure all commercial property landlord compliances, consider:

  • Hiring a qualified consultant to aid with asbestos clearance if such a person is not already on staff
  • Identifying all asbestos-containing materials
  • Treating all materials you think may contain asbestos as though they actually do have asbestos, especially if they are in buildings constructed prior to 1981
  • Posting notices alerting employees to the presence of asbestos
  • Prohibiting all eating, drinking, gum chewing, and smoking in areas containing asbestos
  • Develop an appropriate medical plan
  • Follow negative-air and decontamination guidelines for high-risk asbestos removal sites

Fixtures and Fittings Checklist

Not only do damaged lighting fixtures and fittings become an irritation for tenants and employees, they also may fall short of commercial property security standards, exposing landlords and managers to unwanted liability. Start by:

  • Inspecting all vinyl or aluminum thresholds for damage, wear, or rust
  • Determining whether or not there is damage to or leakage around weatherstripping, windows, or caulked areas
  • Cataloging the condition of stairways, banisters, vending areas, phone stations, elevators, etc.
  • Examining locks, hinges, security systems, surveillance cameras, etc.
  • Documenting all canopies, overhangs, sun shades, blinds, skylights, awnings, etc.
  • Inspecting all drains, gutters, grates, etc.
  • Evaluating the curb appeal of all landscaping, exterior paint, decorative fittings, etc.

A/C, Heating and Refrigeration Systems Checklist

Unlike many of the items in this article, HVAC units and refrigeration don’t typically lead to life-ending scenarios when things go wrong. However, they can cause distinct discomfort for managers, tenants, and employees alike, not to mention significant economic losses. To forestall these, decision makers ought to:

  • Check HVAC unit for obstructed airflows and clear out any stored items that may interfere
  • Look for evidence of condensation
  • Ensure that any bird screens are in place and undamaged
  • Look for evidence of algae, mineral deposits, or general gunk
  • Apply biocide as needed
  • Check refrigeration temperature and defrost settings
  • Examine seams and striping around refrigerator doors to find cold-air leakage
  • Clean refrigeration condensing and evaporator coils
  • Ensure proper functioning of refrigerators’ compressors and fan motors
  • Double check refrigerant levels

GNP Realty Partners understands that while checklists serve an important purpose, they can’t substitute for tailored, personalized property management. We have the experience to ensure that your property remains safe, the flexibility to adapt to challenging circumstances, and the passion to treat your real estate as though it was our own. Contact or call us at (312) 329-8400 to learn more about how we can help you comply with commercial property safety regulations.