Everyone has heard stories about dogs going after postal workers. Sometimes the stories are funny, but more often they end with the worker suffering a serious bite. Nevada law imposes some basic requirements on homeowners to keep their properties safe for people who might visit while the homeowner is away: postal workers or inspectors from the local gas or electrical utility being just two examples.
Delivery and utility workers usually aren’t trespassing
In Nevada, homeowners have a general duty of care to keep their properties reasonably safe for lawful visitors. Nevada law provides that homeowners do not owe a duty of care to trespassers other than children in some situations, or where the trespasser is known to be in a dangerous location. It is also unlawful for homeowners to intentionally create dangerous conditions designed to hurt a trespasser. NRS 41.515.
Generally speaking, people delivering packages and mail to a home and people who come to a home in connection with utility work are not trespassing. The specific reason why varies. Absent a “No Trespassing” sign any visitor has an implied license to approach the front door of a home to speak to the occupant or leave a package there. U.S. Post Office rules specifically allow mail carriers to cross private property as part of their delivery duties. Utility workers, who often need to access to side or back of a home to check meters or repair equipment, typically receive express permission to enter through local laws or service agreements.
There can be exceptions to these general rules. For example, a utility worker might not be allowed to jump over a locked fence or break a chain just to check a meter. A mail carrier’s implied license probably doesn’t allow for packages to be carried around the side of a home or through a closed gate, whether or not it’s locked, unless they have a reasonable purpose for doing so. For example, a deliverer might want to leave a package safely out of sight so it doesn’t get stolen.
Ways a homeowner can keep a home “reasonably safe”
Because a homeowner won’t necessarily be at home when a delivery is made or a utility inspection is made, it’s important to take steps to make the property safe. Here are a few examples:
- Ensure that the approach to the front door is free of hazards. Although a homeowner doesn’t need to constantly inspect for new dangers, care should be taken to address known risks. If a front step is dangerously loose, repairing it or at least putting out a warning sign might be necessary. If the front walk is icy, it might be necessary to shovel or salt it.
- Warn about unleashed dogs. A homeowner is allowed to keep a dog off leash provided the dog is otherwise contained, such as with a fence. By posting “Beware of Dog” signs, the owner places visitors on notice that a dog is present and may pose a danger. Many utility inspectors carry mace to protect themselves from surprise dog attacks, so warning the worker also protects the dog.
- Make sure dangerous conditions are easy to see. A homeowner who has created an unusually dangerous condition, such as a deep trench or exposed electrical work, needs to be especially mindful of the potential risks it poses to visitors. Posting warning signs, using yellow “caution” tape, or ensuring that the dangerous condition is well covered can be ways to reduce the risk to visitors.
GGRM can answer your questions
For over 45 years the lawyers at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have served the Las Vegas community. We understand the legal risks homeowners face and are here to answer questions about how those risks can be managed. For a free attorney consultation call us at 702-388-4476 or request a call through our website.