If you have a Florida vacation home or cottage, you may see it as a haven – a place to let your hair down and get away from it all. Unfortunately, while Florida may be a major vacation destination, Florida injuries and accidents never take a vacation. Your cottage poses some dangers of injury not only to yourself, but also to your visitors. Few property owners want to contemplate the possibility, but if someone is injured at your vacation property or cottage, you could face legal action. Here are some questions to ask yourself when assessing potential premises liability issues with your summer home:
1) How likely are you to have visitors? The more likely you are to have visitors to your property, the more vigilant you will have to be to keep your property safe. Keep in mind, too, that if your property is close to a hiking trail or popular recreational area, people may err onto your property. Post signs clearly indicating where your property begins.
2) What is the condition of the property? Rugged roads in Florida’s beautiful climate and a rustic cottage are charming, but they also increase the chances of Florida slip and fall accidents and other problems. Keep your property as rustic as you like, but take care to fix any obvious dangers you notice.
3) Do you have adequate lighting? Good lighting can go a long way towards preventing injuries, falls, and other accidents. Look for night lighting solutions both indoors and out, but especially along paths and walkways. A programmable timer is also a good idea, as it will give you more control over your lighting.
4) Do you have a pool? Pools in Florida vacation homes increase the likelihood of problems, since most property owners are away from the vacation home for an extended period of time every year. At any point during this absence, someone could wander into your pool area and harm themselves. Pools in empty homes do carry a higher risk of pool-related injuries and accidents. If you do opt for a pool at your vacation home, build a very sturdy fence around it and use a gate with a security alarm system so that you will be informed if anyone enters your pool area. You might also want to hire someone to check in on your property and pool periodically.
5) What is your heating system? Using generators or other higher-risk systems can pose a carbon monoxide risk as well as a fire hazard. Make sure that you follow proper procedures for your heating system and fuel storage.
6) Do you have safety rules and a maintenance schedule? You are less likely to face legal problems if you can show that you have used reasonable care in keeping your vacation home or cottage safe. Keep a written maintenance schedule and follow it. Keep notes on the condition of your property and any repair or maintenance work you have done. Have posted safety rules warning visitors about any hazards that you cannot fix (such as a deep lake nearby). Not only will these extra precautions reduce the possibility of an injury on your property, but they will help you in the event that an accident does take place on your property.