W^H? The Holmes Murphy Blog

  • The Height of the Problem for Fraternal Property

    Didn’t summer just begin? I swear, the kids just got out of class and it felt like we had all the time in the world ahead of us. But, as store shelves indicate, school is right around the corner.

    In a few weeks, students will be heading back into the classroom. And for college students who are part of fraternal organizations, if they didn’t spend the summer at their chapter house, they’ll soon be moving back in. This also means not just studying will begin…but also the fun and likely the social life will, too.

    One thing many college students and fraternal property landlords don’t think about until it’s too late is catastrophic injury at chapter houses. Falls from heights are a significant problem.

    A number of incidents have occurred in recent years when students have fallen off balconies, roofs, fire escapes, and out of windows of fraternity/sorority properties. In some of the cases, sadly, there have been deaths. Nearly 80 percent of the incidents involved alcohol, while more than 80 percent were on a chapter property.

    Don’t Fall into Incidents with These Best Practices

    So as we get ready to kick off the school year, we have some best practices to keep in mind. First, we strongly recommend against allowing members access to these heightened areas unless it’s in an emergency situation, such as a fire.

    Secondly, we encourage the following steps to be taken as well:

    • Conduct third-party inspections of chapter properties
    • Ensure these third-party inspections are completed at least every two years (Holmes Murphy can assist, if desired)
    • Address egress issues with the fire department and meet the minimum required by code
    • Establish House Corporation standards that need to be met to obtain recognition and coverage under the Fraternity’s liability insurance policies
    • Have a Standardized Housing Agreement and Lease Structure
    • Have Proof of Compliance with IRS not-for-profit requirements (990)
    • Establish a functioning board
    • Prohibit social functions on decks and balconies
    • Make sure that bunk beds and lofts are placed away from windows
    • Put window guards on windows to prevent them from opening too far
    • Ensure windows and screens are in good repair
    • Block roof access and assign consequences if students violate this rule

    Obviously, the best practices above are educational and certainly aren’t mandates. We just want to ensure everyone has a safe school year!

    And if you have any questions, we encourage you to ask us! How can we help you put proper plans into place? Is there a best practice you can share? What can we do to make this process easy? Let us know by commenting below or reaching out to any of our Holmes Murphy fraternal team members directly!

    Published on: 08.01.16