Without a clear and comprehensive lease agreement, the landlord-tenant relationship may become compromised. This is especially true when it comes to key aspects like property maintenance.
Creating a properly detailed lease or rental agreement before renting out your property will ensure a smooth tenancy. If the idea of drafting one yourself seems daunting, consider hiring a qualified property management company to do it for you.
When it comes to responsibilities, not everything is straight forward. Some may be defined by your state’s landlord-tenant law, while others may be contained in your lease agreement.
Generally speaking, landlords are usually responsible for tenant safety and habitability, while tenants are responsible for proper use of their properties.
Landlord vs. Tenant Maintenance
A landlord’s responsibility is to keep the property habitable. A habitable property is one that has adequate heating, water, electricity, cleanliness, and is structurally sound.
Failing to meet your landlord responsibilities may lead to legal action from your tenant. In extreme cases, a judge might find you negligent. In such a case, the court may rule that you mitigate damages by reducing a tenant’s rent.
When it comes to habitability, the following are some things that you can do to stay on the right side of the law.
- Regularly inspecting the property to check whether it meets safety and adequate living standards.
- Maintaining a “pest-free” environment.
- Ensuring that the living conditions are peaceful and hazard-free, as tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment.
- Handling requested repairs
- Providing the necessary heat, electricity, and hot and cold water
- Maintaining structural components and a reasonably weather-protected unit.
- Complying with all state and local health and building codes.
- Providing adequate notice prior to entering a rental unit.
At the same time, tenants are responsible for maintaining the property and alerting you of problems that impact their safety and health. Maintenance here means treating the property with care as well as upholding a reasonable level of cleanliness. On top of that tenants must also avoid being abusive or neglectful.
In fact, most leases require that tenants return the property in the same condition they found it. If they don’t, as the landlord, you may deduct the costs of the repairs from their security deposits.
That said, for you to hold them liable, the property damage must exceed normal wear and tear. The following table gives some good examples of property damage vs. normal wear and tear.
|Excessive Tenant Damage: Resident’s Responsibility||
Normal Wear & Tear: Landlord’s Responsibility
|– Broken refrigerator shelf or dented front panels.||– Worn gaskets on refrigerator doors.|
|– Mirrors caked with lipstick and makeup.||– Bathroom mirror beginning to “de-silver” (black spots)|
|– Missing or broken mini-blinds or curtain.||– Moderately dirty mini-blinds or curtains.|
|– Missing or bent shower rod or plumbing fixtures||– Rusty shower rod or worn varnish on plumbing fixtures.|
Landlords vs. Tenants: Who Is Responsible for Maintenance?
Waste management can cause a lot of confusion if the lease isn’t clear on who is responsible. Typically, reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards are the tenant’s responsibility.
Of course, you can’t expect all of your tenants to maintain Martha Stewart standards of cleanliness. However, you also don’t want “pack rats” to rent your property.
The only way you can avoid issues is by having clear lease terms on how your tenants should manage waste on the premises.
Fire Alarms, Smoke Detectors, and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to provide and maintain safety features in your property.
You may also require that your renters alert you of any issues the safety equipment may have. You may also state in your lease terms that battery replacement for detectors is their responsibility.
Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning
Keeping these systems working properly is also a landlord’s responsibility. As for your tenants, they must use them properly and report any issues to you. You may also have lease terms that require your renters to replace air filters and keep pipes clear.
Own a multi-unit residential property? If so, then you must keep all common areas clean and safe, provide appropriate trash receptacles and plan for regular pickup.
As for your tenants, you should require them to follow property rules in regard to the use of such areas.
When it comes to landscaping, the responsibilities can fall on either party. But as the landlord or property owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your property adheres to HOA rules as well as local laws.
If you’ve assigned your tenant with yard maintenance responsibilities, then you may pass on any fines received from violating HOA rules or local laws.
If there is an infestation, pest control falls on the domain of landlords or property owners. The tenant on their part must ensure the property is clean and sanitary so as not to invite infestation.
Do you provide appliances like washers and dryers, dishwasher or refrigerator? If so, then it’s your responsibility to ensure they are in good working condition.
The tenant on their part must use them properly. If they don’t, you may deduct the appropriate repair costs from their security deposits.
Management of Known Toxins
Before a tenant signs a lease, there are certain disclosures that you, as a landlord, must make. Among such disclosures are toxins. You must warn the renter of the presence of any known toxins in your home.
Examples of common toxins include mold, asbestos and lead paint dust. If mold, for example, occurs during a tenancy, then you must manage it so that it doesn’t pose a danger to the tenant’s health.
You may also educate your renters on how to prevent mold growth. For instance, using proper ventilation systems.
As a landlord, you can make your job much easier by setting specific rules for your tenants to follow. This will help prevent misunderstanding in regard to who is responsible for what when it comes to property maintenance.