When it comes to maintenance issues, most of the time the line is pretty clear between tenant and landlord repair responsibilities. For grey-area repairs, however, it’s important to keep in mind some basic principals to ensure healthy rental operations.
Whether the financial responsibility falls on you or your tenants, as the property owner you should strive to maintain it as best as you can regardless of who caused the issue.
Doing so will protect your investment over the long term.
This is why it’s also important to encourage your tenants to report maintenance issues, even if they are not urgent, and reward them by actually following through on repairs.
Routine vs. Ad-hoc Maintenance
Conducting routine maintenance is crucial for keeping overall costs low and profits high as it keeps known issues from getting larger.
When it comes to ad-hoc maintenance, the same concept applies – you want to know about an issue as quickly as possible so that you can fix it effectively and at a reasonable cost.
Maintain good communications with your tenants so that they feel comfortable reporting issues to you even if they know that they are responsible for them.
So what falls under landlord responsibilities? Determining this requires judgment in some cases, but let’s take a look at some of the more obvious scenarios.
What are a Landlord’s Repair Responsibilities?
In general, a landlord’s most immediate responsibility is ensuring a “habitable” property.
Unless a rental lease agreement clearly states otherwise (and is allowed by your state’s laws), the following examples fall under landlord responsibilities, assuming the issues are caused by break downs and are not the direct fault of a tenant.
Air Conditioning and Heat
It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that cooling works when it’s needed in the summer months and that the heat works during cold winter months.
Mold in Property
If there is visible mold found in the property due to a leak or other water damage, the landlord is responsible for remedying the situation.
If the mold is a result of tenant negligence, the tenants would be responsible for fixing the issue and getting rid of the mold.
Regardless of who is responsible, however, as the landlord, you should push to remove the mold as soon as possible as it is a health hazard that could result in liability down the line.
Structural Damage to Property
Your property must maintain it’s structural integrity to be deemed “habitable”. This means repairing any large cracks in exterior walls or issues in the foundation.
Protection from Weather
Similar to structural damage, landlord responsibilities ensure that the property is protected from weather conditions such as rain. This means repairing leaky roofs or areas that are prone to flooding.
After a tenant leaves, it is the landlord’s responsibility to change the locks and maintain a secure living environment for incoming renters.
It’s the landlord’s responsibility to make sure the property is pest free and to remove new pest infestations.
Staying Up to Code
This is a basic requirement that landlords should follow so that the property is up to local health and safety code.
What are a Tenant’s Repair Responsibilities?
Not all responsibilities fall on landlords, as some routine maintenance activities such as trash removal are the tenants’ responsibility.
A good way to communicate these responsibilities and other important info to your renters is with a well-written tenant welcome letter.
Below are some of the most common responsibilities of tenants when it comes to repairs and maintenance.
Take Out Trash
Tenants are responsible for removing the trash they generate from living in the property. Make trash removal instructions clear to your tenants so that they understand when and where to place the trash for pick up.
If you know that your property is problematic when it comes to trash (for example the trash bin is far from the property, or if pickup is only once a week) make sure you remind your renters often early on in the lease period since trash that is left alone can cause bigger issues after a while.
Damage Caused by Tenants, Their Pets, or Their Guests
This one is pretty straightforward – if your tenant causes damage, they are responsible for the repair.
As previously mentioned, however, you want to make sure that you know about the issue and can supervise the repairs.
The same applies for any damage caused by your tenants’ pets or guests.
Violation of Lease Terms
If the damage is caused as a result of a violation of the rental lease agreement, the tenant will be responsible for covering repairs.
For example, if your renter tries to put up drywall and damages the integrity of the property in the process, while your lease clearly states that they are not allowed to make any improvements to the property, they would be in violation of the lease and responsible for the total cost of the repair.
Who Should Pay for Repairs?
Landlords have to cover the expenses for repairs that fall under landlord responsibility, while tenants cover their responsibility.
If it is agreed that a repair is a tenant’s responsibility, you might still want to bring your own professionals and supervise the repair to make sure it is done right.
In these cases, you can ask your renters to pay the professional directly, add the cost of repair on top of the following month’s rent, or create a specific charge for the repair if you collect rent online.
Sometimes, there will be a dispute about who should pay. In these cases, you should repair the issue and pay for it as the landlord, and deduct the expense from the security deposit at the end of the lease. Make sure to document the damage and repair process to protect your right to use the security deposit.
A great way to document the condition of your property prior to a tenant moving in is using a walkthrough move-in checklist. This will help you determine if there is any unreported, tenant-caused damage by the end of the lease period.