Q: We are renting a house and we set up a trampoline in our backyard. The owner wants to remove it because of liability issues if there's an accident. Is that reasonable, or is there something we can do about this, like place a sign on the trampoline? --Marleen
A: It's noteworthy that you find yourself in the precisely opposite situation of most tenants who have an issue with their landlord about a hazardous condition. Most often, tenants complain that there is a dangerous situation on the property, and that their landlord refuses to fix it and eliminate the hazard. Though laws do vary by state, landlords do often find themselves held liable for the physical and monetary damages incurred by virtue of hazardous conditions on the properties they own.
In the final analysis, your landlord's insistence that the trampoline be removed is actually quite reasonable. Here are three factors I want you to consider as you try to wrap your head around this.
1. Trampolines are very dangerous. I suspect you may think your landlord is overreacting, and that you might not realize just how dangerous trampolines actually are. To get a sense for where your landlord is coming from, simply Google the words "trampoline" and "liability." You'll soon see that not only are trampoline injuries a very common cause of severe injuries to adults and children alike, they are also the source of a full-blown body of law around homeowners being responsible to cover the costs and other damages related to those injuries.
In fact, just last month, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain suffered a career-pausing ankle dislocation, you guessed it, while jumping on a trampoline.
2. Your landlord has the legal responsibility to prevent hazardous conditions. Not only is it highly likely your landlord would become embroiled in a legal case that arises from the injuries a visitor to your home might incur on the trampoline, it's also highly likely that because your landlord is aware that you have installed the trampoline he'd end up being held liable. And that's just the beginning; many homeowners insurance and hazard insurance policies are actually voided by the installation of a trampoline on the home.
Your landlord needs to be able to maintain the home in insurable condition, and needs to make sure that an insurance policy is on the property and remains in force. This protects your landlord, but also may protect you in the event that you were to be injured or harmed as a result of a fire or some other insured-against event of that nature, which I hope never happens at your home. If having a trampoline in the backyard voids the insurance policy, which it likely does, that in and of itself renders your landlord's demands reasonable.
3. There's one way you can have 100 percent control over your backyard and what you put in it. Putting a sign up on a trampoline doesn't minimize the possibility of people getting injured, and it doesn't necessarily impact the specter of liability for your landlord, either. Possibly, having every single person who ever jumps on it sign a waiver might minimize the liability concern, but enforcing that and ensuring that the signer is competent and the form will stand up in court is completely infeasible.
When you rent someone else's home, they absolutely have the right to impose some basic health, safety and other conditions on the rental, like a ban on waterbeds and large dogs.
The one way you can get ultimate control over your home and how you customize it is this: Buy your own home. Problem is, as a homeowner, you need an insurance policy, too, especially if you have a mortgage. Your mortgage company will require that you either (a) obtain and maintain a policy or (b) they will put a very, very expensive policy on the property.
So, if and when you do buy your own home, I'd urge you to work with your insurance representative to fully understand the impact of having a trampoline in your backyard, before you do that.