DEAR WALDMANS: We are a small business in rural Utah that is afflicted with a growing problem with mice. We are trying to stay on top of this problem and, in order to do so, we have decided to use rat bait to kill the mice and rats. The problem is, many of our tenants have pets and let them run loose while they utilize their rental unit. When placing poison in each unit, I have explained to the tenants what we are doing and the possible dangers to their pets and children. What are our legal liabilities should the poison be ingested by an animal or child? Would it benefit us to have a disclaimer, or would a simple authorization for the placement of such a substance with the tenant's signature suffice? What are the possibilities if a legal situation should occur? I am convinced this situation is not unique to our facility. If you decide to address this issue in your column, I am sure it would help a lot of facility owners.
--Yikes! Mice! in Ogden, Utah
DEAR YIKES! MICE!: You are right in your conclusion that mice are not just a problem for your facility. Mice and rats are a universal problem. These little creatures travel all around, and not just in rural areas. We have seen them at our own facility.
Let's start with your first concern: the mice. Most people don't know this, but mice bait is free in many states, counties and cities. All you have to do is request it. So, I would start by doing some research and see if this free bait is available. We tell renters about the bait when they rent. We do not have a problem, but we are preventing a problem from multiplying.
As to the liability of this poison to children and animals--this should be considered a major area of thought. We never allow animals or children to run around our storage facility because the liability is huge, and most insurance companies would cringe if they knew that was happening. Additionally, most insurance companies do not approve of guard dogs either.
First of all, animals have fleas. By allowing animals to run around the facility, you are asking for yet another problem. A storage facility is not the place for animals to run free. Not only are they a danger to themselves, but you are placing yourself at risk for the other tenants. What if one of the dogs bit another tenant? Or what if a dog attacked a child, or even frightened a child by their excitement? It is beneficial to you and the facility to set the rules that no animals are allowed to run free. This not only solves your poison problem, but your concerns of liability to other tenants.
Now, this fact applies to children, too. It is not in the best interest of the children to run and play at the facility, not only because of the poison, but what about other traffic in the area? Due to the possibility of a lawsuit on any one of these issues, protect yourself. Post signs and make it known that animals running loose are not allowed and children are not to be left unsupervised by an adult while on the storage premises. This will not only save you from the heartache of possible mishaps, but allows you to create rules that will benefit all.
A father-daughter team, the Waldmans are self-storage owners/operators and attorneys.
In addition, Ms. Waldman holds a master's degree in labor and employment law from
Georgetown University. The Waldmans are co-authors of the industry's leading series of
books on self-storage operations: Getting Started, Forms, Policies & Procedures and
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Views and opinions on legal matters are those of the authors. Professional counsel should be obtained before any determination or positive action is taken.