Maintenance Q & A
By Amy Brown
Preventive maintenance and repair to your storage facility is essential to preserve and enhance the value of your property and reduce your potential for liability claims. Let’s look at some commonly asked questions about self-storage maintenance and insurance from facility owners and operators nationwide.
Q: My roofs are leaking, and every dollar estimate I have received from licensed roofing contractors seems high. Why should I pay more when I can do the repairs myself?
A: Storage owners often attempt to hire friends or repair their roofs themselves in hope of saving money. However, if the job is not done correctly, the outcome could cost a lot more than if they hired a professional to do the work. Most nonprofessionals do not know the complete process necessary to prevent roof leakage, one of the most important factors of facility maintenance. Poor repair jobs involve something as insignificant as over tightening screw fasteners to using the wrong sealants. For the time, money and effort it takes an amateur to fix a roof, it is better to hire a professional. It will be well worth the avoided frustration and provide a lot more assurance the job is done right.
Q. We contracted a floor company to tile our leasing office. Days after the tiling was completed, a tenant tripped and fell on a loose tile. She broke her wrist and twisted her knee. The visitor wants us to pay for her medical bills, but isn’t the company that installed the tile responsible?
A. The injured party may hold you and your contractor liable on the grounds you allowed dangerous conditions to exist at your facility or hired an incompetent flooring company. Check your insurance policy to see if your business liability includes medical payments, which cover visitors for bodily injury suffered on the premises, without regard for liability. This coverage allows the insurance company to pay small nuisance claims, often avoiding the need for costly legal expenses. Trying to determine who is responsible for the medical bills can be complex. When you hired the contractor, you assumed the work performed would be competent and the supplies of professional quality. Since the visitor slipped on a loose piece of new tile, it’s safe to assume the work was not performed adequately; and this situation could be considered one of vendor liability.
The best way for self-storage owners to protect themselves from vendor-liability exposure is to take appropriate measures when hiring contractors. Hiring licensed professionals with proof of insurance may drastically reduce your liability (in terms of negligence) in a vendor-exposure claim. Request the contractor for hire to provide you a certificate of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
A certificate of insurance is evidence the vendor is insured by a financially stable company and carries adequate amounts of coverage for the service being performed. It should have information on the insurer, insurance agency, types of insurance, policy numbers, effective dates, limits, certificate holders and any special provisions. Check to see the vendor’s policy limits are at least equal if not greater than your facility’s and the policy effective dates are current.
When you hired the flooring company, did you obtain a copy of its insurance certificate to ensure it is adequately insured for the scope of work it provides? Since the tenant slipped on a piece of tile after the job was finished, it would be helpful if you still had the certificate of insurance on file. In fact, you should always keep vendor certificates on file during projects and even years after job completion. This will obviously benefit you most if an incident occurs.
Q. I am planning to acquire another storage facility. However, it is in an area exposed to brush fires. How can I repair and maintain the facility to ensure my insurance company will provide coverage for my new location?
A. Your insurance agent can determine the eligibility of this location through careful underwriting procedures. Though I cannot guarantee your insurance company will provide coverage, I can give you some maintenance and prevention tips to properly secure and maintain your facility.
If they are not already in place, have automatic fire sprinklers and smoke alarms installed in every building, and maintain them in working condition. You should have a fire alarm that connects to a central station or the local fire department. Any windows (i.e., in the office) should be treated with fire retardant chemicals. Cover any exterior vents and openings with metal-mesh screens. If your area does fall victim to a brush fire, the screens will keep cinders from blowing in.
The surrounding area should be well watered to provide protection against approaching fires. Clear away dry or dead brush, trees, grass and other debris. Rake away dead leaves, plants, twigs, branches and rubbish from under trees, decks and stairs, and do not allow vines to grow on fences, buildings or units. Hire a professional tree service to safely maintain trees, concentrating on removing limbs, branches and shrubs so they don’t touch or rub against electrical wires. In addition, if you contact your power company, they will remove branches near any power lines.
Finally, keep in mind emergency vehicles should be able to reach your property and have room to turn around and get out. Check with your local fire department to see how much room it needs in the way of slope, road width, overhead clearance and turning radius. If the facility is gated, make sure the gates open inward and are wide enough to accommodate fire-fighting equipment.
Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the selfstorage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, call 800.844.2101; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.vpico.com/universal.