Property Maintenance Standards for Premises Safety Expert Overview

This article discusses the standard of care for exterior property maintenance as it relates to premises liability disputes. Adequate maintenance should account for both preventive and unplanned measures; our experts can help you understand which property maintenance standards are relevant based on the details of your case.

Property Maintenance Premises Liability Expert

Premises Safety through Property Maintenance

From the moment that a building is completed it will begin to require some form of maintenance. Regular maintenance of a building will preserve the owner’s assets and will also reduce the likelihood of premises injuries including but not limited to slips, trips, and falls.

As all building components will wear and deteriorate over time, maintenance programs involving regularly scheduled inspections will provide early notice of developing conditions that may negatively impact the safety of building occupants, guests, and others. These include exterior elements such as sidewalks, parking lots, and stairs along with interior elements such as mats, carpet, and other floor materials.

The Standard of Care for Exterior Maintenance

Many hazardous conditions develop over time and can be identified before they become dangerous with regular inspections and eliminated with proper maintenance of the property. A comprehensive inspection and maintenance plan can protect the property owner and manager from a variety of premises liability disputes, including slips, trips, and falls.

The earliest and simplest way of detecting potential hazards is while performing custodial maintenance. Staff who perform janitorial tasks on a daily or weekly basis are often the first who can notice and report deterioration of walkway surfaces as well as other issues with building or exterior elements.

Preventative maintenance is a comprehensive, regularly scheduled program of various building components and elements. The program involves using checklists suited for what is being inspected.

Preventative maintenance of a building not only encompasses mechanical, structural, and cladding components, but also includes interior components such as stairs, handrails, and flooring. It also involves the seasonal inspection of exterior grounds including parking lots, sidewalks, gutters and downspouts, trash enclosures, fences, stairs, handrails, and guards.

These in-depth inspections should be performed by staff and include management so that the need for corrective action can be properly evaluated.

Other types of maintenance include Reactive and Emergency. These are unplanned, unscheduled maintenance events.

  • Reactive maintenance is the routine correction of issues usually identified and reported by facilities users.
  • Emergency maintenance is the immediate response to correct problems that are a danger to life and property.

Additional inspections should be conducted after emergency situations as well as severe weather events to assess any damage or dangerous conditions caused by these events.

Relevant Codes and Standards

Owners and their managers should be familiar with the codes and ordinances that are applicable to their property. One such code that is widely adopted is The International Property Maintenance Code. This code applies to all existing premises and constitutes the minimum standard for maintenance. It outlines the responsibilities of owners, operators, and occupants for safe occupancy. For instance, this code requires that:

All sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces and similar areas shall be kept in a proper state of repair and maintained free from hazardous conditions.

The code also addresses the maintenance of decks, porches, balconies, handrails, guardrails, gates, and ramps.

Other widely adopted codes include the Life Safety Code and The International Fire Code. Both codes require that the means of egress from a building, including its exterior portions, remain free of obstructions and hazards. This includes handrails, guardrails, steps, ramps, walkways. The means of egress should also be maintained free of snow and ice.

Facilities management publications recommend inspections frequencies and checklist suggestions which are tailored for various types of inspections. Exterior walkways should be inspected semi-annually for deterioration, cracking, heaving, settlement, and tree root growth.

Premises Safety Expert Witness Investigations

Whether you represent a plaintiff or a defendant in a premises liability claim, it is important to consider the relevant maintenance implications. The Premises Safety experts at Robson Forensic investigate cases involving the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of residential, institutional, and commercial premises. We conduct site inspections, perform tests, and review applicable standards to learn facts and form opinions about how and why individuals were injured within the built environment.

For more information submit an inquiry or contact the author of this article.

Featured Expert

Albert J. Kerelis, Jr., Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert

Albert J. Kerelis, Jr., AIA, NCARB, ARM

Architecture, Construction & Premises Safety Expert
Albert Kerelis is an architect with over 25 years of experience in building design, construction administration, and property management. He applies his expertise to forensic casework involving construction claims, premises liability disputes, and matters involving architectural professional liability.


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