Keeping your Home a Safe (and Liability-free) Place

Whether you own or rent your dwelling, there are some things you can do to keep your home safer for yourself, your family, and also for those entering your property. Although you have liability insurance along with your homeowners or renters insurance, in the case of safety, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It’s important to keep your sidewalks clear of snow and ice. Many people don’t realize that if a sidewalk is on the same side of the street as their home, then they are responsible for maintaining it should inclement weather occur. If somebody slips and is injured due to an incompletely cleared sidewalk, you may be liable. Ensure you shovel and salt/sand your sidewalks ASAP, and if you are unable to do so promptly, try and arrange for a neighbor to do it for you. Different municipalities have different rules as to the time in which you must clear your sidewalks after snow or ice obstructs them, so check your local bylaw office for more information. But even if your local office says you have 24 hours by law to make your sidewalks safe, it’s best if you’re able to do it as soon as you can.
As well as keeping your sidewalks safe for pedestrians, the same goes for your driveway, front walk, stairs, and porch/decks. Basically, any walkway which visitors to your home could be on should be maintained to prevent slips and falls.

Having railings installed in all stairwells, inside and out, can help to prevent an injury in your home. Builder’s code requires that there be railings installed when there are a certain number of steps (risers) present. But don’t assume that your home was up to code when you moved in! Check with your local municipality to see when railings are required to ensure your home meets standards. If you need to install railings to ensure your home is safe, research how to do it properly before commencing. You want to make sure that those railings are in wall studs and are very sturdy, as they may need to hold an adults weight if they were to slip on the stairs.

Another thing you can do to keep your home safe for yourself and others is to keep your walkways clear. If you have children, you know how the toys seem to spill out everywhere. Keep them picked up and out of main corridors, and off the driveway and front of your home when your children are done using them. Same goes for gardening equipment, golf clubs……basically anything you use, put away once you’re done using it to avoid tripping over the item later. Fixing uneven paving stones is also a good way to prevent an injury.

Inside your house, your hot water heater is set at a temperature which is adjustable. Be aware of how hot you have it set, and if it could cause a scald, turn it down a little to prevent burns. This is especially important to do if you have young children in your house- either living in or visiting. Also, installing carbon monoxide and smoke alarms on every level of your home is a must. Don’t forget to change the batteries and test twice a year! A good time to do this is when you set your clocks when the time changes in spring and fall.

Obviously, one never wants to be involved in a lawsuit or having to deal with insurance companies paying out a liability claim because somebody was hurt on your property. But the most important thing always is keeping you, your family, and your visitors safe.