house with no fence

I just closed my very first rental investment property today.

A question regarding liability with the tenant…
The property sits on a flat lot and there is no fence around it. On the back side of the backyard, there is retaining rocks that drops about 4 feet and at the bottom of the drop is the fence for the neigbhor. So you see about 2 feet of neighbor’s fence sticking up from my backyard.

I’m a bit paranoid about the possibility of tenant suing me for hurting themselves by falling or inadvertantly stepping off the drop. Is this something I should be concerned about? Or can I add something in the lease agreement to basically get them to agree that the entire responsibility lies on their side if they were ever to hurt themselves?

I will eventually build the fence, but I want to get the tenant moved in there paying rents as soon as possible. I’m going to start advertising this weekend.

Any comment or feedback is appreciated.

I would put it in the lease in specific terms that the hazard exists…and claim “no responsibility” (this will probably not hold up if push comes to shove). You could at least show that the tenant knew that the hazard existed. Then, I’d get a fence up “RSN”…


(RSN is “southern” for “real soon now”)

While you are waiting for the fence you could put up that hot pink contractor’s tape (like crime scene tape) or the plastic woven fencing that contractor’s use around excavations (you can roll it up and use it again). Say, if you live in NJ there should be plenty of crime scene tape available.

A couple of warning signs in front of the fence on stakes or stapled to your neighbors fence will show you were pro-active in making tenants and visitors aware of the situation. … provided they don’t impale themselves on your sign stake or cut their finger on your staples.


Because I’m currently in a fence war myself, I need to ask – do all the properties around yours have fences? And if so, do you know why isn’t yours currently fenced? Are you dealing with an easement situation?

Like always, I agree with Keith, add to your lease that there is a hazard issue, but I truly doubt this will help you should they hurt themselves and decide you’re the cash cow. Then you’ve actually pointed out their reason to hurt themselves. You’d be amazed at what tenants will do. If it’s serious enough of a problem for you to worry about, fence it before you rent it. Hey, I’m a poet and didn’t know it 8)

I also like the pink tape idea LOL.

Good luck to you.

there is no easement issue. The house is relatively new (built in 2001), the neighbor to the right does not have the fence. They put the main pillars(?) 6 ft or so apart from each other. So as far as I can tell, they are in the process of building one.

The space to the left is open area. From what I heard, they are going to eventually build a small playground.

Can I put something to the effect like “by signing this addendum, are you giving up your rights to pursue any liability damage caused by the lack of fence?” They can still try to sue me?

Save yourself a hassle and put up the fence. Putting a “clause” in a lease seems to make it a challenge for the tenant to try to hurt themselves on it and sue you because you knew it was a problem (heck you did all the work for their lawyer by writting it in the lease!)

How about umbrella plan or LLC? They can still sue me either way. But that should protect me somewhat?

Not really, since you are the “executive” of the company, and you knew about the problem, you can still be liable. LLC’s protect you from certain things, but not pure negligence. Remember penny wise pound foolish! What the heck is your problem anyways? Are fences that expensive where you live? Zoning issues? If building a fence going to make this thing not cash flow for a few years, I think you paid too much.

My problem is being overly protective with issues and trying to cover myself too much. Maybe I just heard too many horror stories about tenants suing whatever they can. Just concerned about the tiny window time frame between the time I get the tenant in there and the time I actually can go build it. We are talking 1-2 weeks of time that the tenants won’t have the fence.

What is definition of negligence anyway?! The retaining wall is there because the property sits higher than the neighboring house in the back. The building code did not require the fence to be put up. They can trip over the grass and hurt themselves. garden snakes can crawl to my property and bite the tenant. Is that negligence? I know I’m oversimplifying and being silly somewhat.

I called my insurance company and told him about it. He said that if the tenants sue me, the insurance company will cover the lawyer’s fee and up to $300k. I’m considering upping that to max $500k by paying $10 more a month. Is this worth the money?