As a landlord, you hope your rental property will be a profitable investment. You also understand that your job as a landlord has considerable responsibilities. Landlords are responsible for maintaining their property to a standard that provides tenants with a safe and clean living space and responding to maintenance requests in a reasonable amount of time.
Tenants also have specific responsibilities under the terms of the lease or local law, which include notifying you of health or safety issues on or in the property. However, it is essential to communicate with tenants about which maintenance tasks are the landlord's responsibility and which tasks are the tenant's responsibility.
A Guide to Landlord Responsibilities
Landlords are responsible for providing their tenants with a safe, clean, and healthy living environment. Most municipalities have local building codes and state laws laying out standards for construction, maintenance, and living standards for rental units. The specific rules and requirements often vary based on the state in which your property is located, but here is a standard list of landlord responsibilities:
Provide habitable living;
Conducting routine maintenance checks and making any necessary repairs;
Depending on local laws, you may have an obligation as the landlord to supply trash receptacles;
Keeping structural elements of the property safe and intact;
Maintaining any common areas;
Keeping all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilation, and other equipment in good working order and up to code;
Handling any vermin or infestation, such as ants, bed bugs, roaches, and mice;
And disclosing any history of environmental hazards, such as lead paint, bed bugs, and asbestos.
Understanding your state and local laws is critical to ensure that you provide a healthy living environment for your residents. Adding a provision in your lease that encourages your tenants to notify you as soon as problems arise allows you to address the issues before minor problems become major repairs.
A quiet living environment:
While you want your tenant to enjoy their home, you also want to ensure they aren't disrupting other residents. Consider establishing in your lease that tenants should maintain a reasonable noise level.
Maintain tenant safety:
Check with a local property manager to see if you have a landlord responsibility for tenant safety. Legal requirements may vary by local law, so it's necessary to understand what is required in your area. Regardless of where you live, there are several actions you can take to ensure tenant safety, including:
Screening all tenants. Use a rental application and background checks (where allowed by law) to screen potential tenants.
Maintaining locks. Change or rekey locks before a new tenant moves in, and make sure locks on windows and doors are always functional.
Removing hazards. Make sure common areas, including parking lots, are well-lit. Ensure proper safety measures are followed; for example, nothing should block emergency exits, and all exits should be clearly marked.
Providing safety equipment. Be sure your property has functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that have not been tampered with. Fire extinguishers should be in common areas and within 10 feet of kitchens.
Supervising all hired personnel. Keep a watchful eye on people you've hired to work on the property, such as electricians, plumbers, contractors, and maintenance workers.
Giving notice of entry. While keeping the rental adequately maintained is a top priority, you must also follow local laws about providing advance notice before entering the rental. Most states require landlords to give 24 or 48 hours notice of entry, but requirements may vary in an emergency.
Respond to maintenance requests and perform repairs:
Major issues that can negatively impact your tenant's quality of life or affect their ability to live comfortably in the rental unit typically require immediate attention. Here are a few examples of what are generally urgent landlord repair responsibilities:
Heating or air conditioning
Response times vary depending on the severity of the issue. How long you can wait to respond to repair requests depends on local requirements, so check with your property manager for guidance on response times.
Response time for major repairs: If a tenant experiences a major issue that impacts livability, generally, you must respond within 24 hours of the complaint. You may also be required to cover the cost of temporary housing.
Response time for minor repairs: For lesser concerns, landlord response times can vary based on the terms of the lease and local regulations. But even minor requests should be handled quickly (typically within seven days) to prevent further damage and maintain livability. Be sure to notify your tenants before entering the rental property.
Record unit condition and normal wear and tear:
When tenants move out, landlords should repair anything considered normal wear and tear, such as stained carpets, scuffed walls, and worn or loose hardware. Consider using a walkthrough checklist to keep track of the rental's condition when a tenant moves in and again when they move out. It's also a good idea to make a rental property maintenance plan and lay out your and the tenant's responsibilities in the lease to minimize the number of unexpected repairs.