Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs: When to Bear Maintenance cost?
It is a common sight to have maintenance requests from your tenants. And being a landlord, it is your responsibility to provide a warranty of habitability to the tenants. So, whenever any maintenance issue arises; the tenants assume it to be a landlord`s responsibility to make repairs and bear the cost. No doubt, maintenance requests come under the landlord responsibilities of repairs but not always.
Having repairs is a touchy subject and it can create confusion among tenants and landlords on who to bear the cost of the repairs. The damages that are not wear and tear and are the result of the negligence of the tenant are the responsibility of the tenant. A landlord is only responsible for undertaking repairs related to providing a safe and healthy environment.
List of Landlord responsibilities for Repairs
There is no good in risking your rental business by paying from your own pocket when the repair is your tenant`s responsibility. It is better to know in which circumstances you are liable to pay for the repairs done at your rental. Let us then put some light on your landlord responsibilities for repairs to tenants. These repair responsibilities vary from state to state and your lease agreement plays a big role in this regard.
Landlord Plumbing Responsibilities
Plumbing is the most common issue experienced among the renters. It can range from having a clogged toilet, water leaks, jammed garbage disposals or issues with the water heater. All these plumbing issues can cause inconvenience in the habitable stay of the tenant and need ardent repairs.
Having the repairs of these plumbing issues is the responsibility of the landlord. You are required to get the repair job done as soon as possible. But, the costs of repairs are not necessarily borne by the landlord always. It depends on several factors.
If during the repair, you find that the toilet is clogged due to the tenant`s negligence. You can charge your tenant for the repairs. However, if the toilet has been clogged from blocked drainage due to old worn out pipe or a collapsed line, it is the landlord responsibility for the repairs. Be ready to bear the complete cost.
In most states though, the collapsed drains are the responsibility of the HOA`s. But being a landlord, it is your responsibility to coordinate with HOA`s and provide a habitable stay to tenants. So, you are responsible until the drain gets fixed.
Water Drips and Running Water in the toilet:
Water dripping and running water in the toilet are the common plumbing issues. The Water drips mainly occur from faucets of the kitchen sink and bathroom shower. And the issue of running water occurs due to some broken plastic parts in the water tank. Both these issues mainly come under general day to day repairs in the rental.
Mostly the problem with dripping faucets is caused due to the rubber washer going bad. The rubber washer and other similar kinds of parts come under consumable items. These require replacement at regular intervals. Hence, it is the responsibility of the tenant to replace the consumables. However, if the whole toilet or the faucet has to be replaced for any reason other than tenant negligence, it is the landlord responsibility for the repairs. And the cost of which should be borne by the landlord.
If water is flooding in your rental unit from the roof, it has to be repaired at the landlord`s expense. Also, you should address the issue of water leaks immediately as it can cause damage to your walls and hardwood floors.
Mostly flooding water from the roof is a result of rain seepage or the condensation of the attic due to chilly winters. In all these cases, it is the landlord responsibility for the repairs at his own expense.
Jammed Garbage Disposal:
The Garbage disposal unit under the sink often needs repairs. The main reason for garbage disposals going bad is due to its motor burning out. Or, it is due to the tenant throwing something in the sink which doesn`t suppose to be there.
If the garbage disposal is jammed due to motor burning out, the landlord has to repair it at his own expense. But, if you find some chicken bones or something like that during the repair; don`t mind billing your tenant for the repair cost.
No Hot water:
A good water heater mostly lasts about 8-10 years. However, it requires routine maintenance which includes changing its heating element and pressure valves at regular intervals. If the tenant is not having the hot water and the issue is due to any of these mentioned things. Then the repair of water heater comes under the landlord responsibilities of repairs. If necessary, you have to even replace it completely.
However, some landlords consider the heating element in the geyser as a consumable part and truly there is no wrong in it. If this is your case and you have mentioned the same in your lease, you can bill your tenant for replacing the heating element.
Landlord Electrical Responsibilities
The electrical issues can range from having normal issues like non-working switches, fuse bulbs, blown fuses, and broken sockets. The more serious issues involve loose wires, circuit breaker continuously breaking, heating and melting of outlets and switches. Sure, it is the landlord responsibility to provide a safe environment to its tenants. And you are responsible to ensure an overall working electrical system but not in every case.
When a tenant is experiencing electric issues in the rental due to normal issues, it is the tenant responsibility to have the repairs. But if the issues with electricity are due to serious issues, it is the landlord responsibility to have the repairs.
However, if it is found that the issue is caused due to the tenant`s negligence; you should charge your tenant. Sometimes, the circuit breaks continuously due to tenant`s overloading the circuit. And, if the damage is due to overloading which had resulted in heating and melting of switches. Get the repairs done and pass on the bill to the tenant.
Pro tip: Do not delay the electrical repairs even if it is due to the tenant`s negligence. You can definitely bill your tenant. But, causing a delay can be fatal and result in injuries or even can lead to a damage to your rental property. Furthermore, not able to provide a safe environment to tenants is the violation of the safety codes. And then, you can be held liable.
Landlord Mold Cleaning Responsibilities
Having mold is an obstruction to the livability of tenants at your rental property. Molds pose serious health risks and can cause health hazards depending upon the type of mold present in your environment. Having mold at your rental is a failure to warranty of habitability by the landlord to its tenants.
By law, mold cleaning comes under landlord responsibilities of repairs at his own expense. If the tenant has notified you of having mold at the property, you are required to have the cleaning done in a given time frame.
The mold generally grows in the damp environment. If the mold is a result of the landlord`s failure in fixing the water leaks even after the tenant`s maintenance request. It then becomes the landlord responsibility to clean the mold and pay for the expenses incurred.
But what if the mold is a result of the tenant`s poor sanitation habits? If the tenant doesn’t clean up the drain that he has clogged or didn`t let the proper ventilation to space, mold can grow. And, then you can hold your tenant liable for the cleaning and the maintenance cost occur in the cleaning of mold.
Landlord Pest Control Responsibilities
It is the landlord responsibility to keep the rental unit free from pest infestations. Pet infestation as per the state and the local laws is the violation of the warranty of habitability. It is termed as an unhealthy living condition. The law compels the landlord to take care of the pest control and bear the cost it incurs.
However, if your lease states that any pest infestation which is a result of the tenant`s doing is the responsibility of the tenant at his expense. So, you should try to find the reason for infestation while going for pest control. Pest controls usually cost a lot of money. Determining the cause, you can avoid any unnecessary costs and keep your rental free from extensive damages.
If your rental unit is in area, where pests like ants, bed bugs or millipedes are common. Then you should have pest control at your expense in suggested intervals. Never mistake to leave the responsibility of the pest controls on your tenants and let them deduct the charge from the rent. Chances are the job will not be satisfactory or never done at all.
However, if your tenant has a bad habit of keeping the food in open or not cleaning the surrounding. Then, an infestation of pests like rats, rodents, and termites is a common sight. You shall now know who to hold liable for the pest control.
Landlord Repair Responsibility towards Common Area
The maintenance of the common areas always remains questionable on whether the tenant or the landlord is responsible for its maintenance. The general issues that arise for common areas include repair works for fittings or fixtures and the cleaning of the area.
In a multifamily unit, it is the landlord repair responsibility for maintaining the common areas. Be it the electrical fittings or any other kind of fixture, a landlord is responsible for bearing its cost if anything goes out of order.
Also for the cleaning part, it is the landlord who has to bear the cost of cleaning of common areas. Not only this, you have to provide a proper trash receptacle in the building and ensure the removal of trash by either you or by some of your employee.
Landlord Yard Maintenance Responsibilities
The Yard maintenance issues mostly arise when you have a rental property which has either a front yard, back yard or both. The tenant assumes its maintenance to be the landlord`s responsibility and the landlord expect the tenant to maintain it.
The yard maintenance always comes under the Landlord`s responsibility of repairs unless otherwise stated in the lease. And if you haven`t yet stated in the lease that the yard maintenance is the responsibility of the tenant. You need to bear the cost of repairs when it arises.
Having stated clearly in the lease, your tenant is obliged to maintain the yard. And, bear the cost of repairs for its maintenance. Generally, the maintenance cost arises for cutting the grass, mowing of lawns and fertilizing the grass.
Landlord Repair Responsibilities for Structural Integrity
Ensuring the Structural Integrity of the rental property is always on the part of the landlord. Having a flaw in the structure whose repair hasn`t been done on time is the direct violation of the property codes. You are risking your tenant`s well being and infringing the warranty of habitability.
Maintaining the structural integrity include maintaining roof, doors, foundation, windows, gutters and external walls. when your tenant reports about any issue with structural integrity, you are bound to make repairs in time. Refer to ‘Housing Act of 2004‘ and the ‘Landlord-Tenant Act of 1985‘.
Though there is an exception to this law. If the tenancy of the particular tenant is beyond 7 years, he is responsible for maintaining structural integrity. Also if you suspect there is any damage or harm to the structural integrity of your property is a result of your tenant or his guest`s action, you can definitely pass its bill to your tenant.
Landlord Responsibilities after Fire
It is a very unfortunate event if a part of your rental or a complete portion has been destroyed in a fire. In such cases, landlords are responsible for repairing the rental unit and make it habitable again as soon as possible. But the fire can click a series of question in the mind of both the landlord and the tenant.
A landlord may think about whether it is the tenant that is some way responsible for the fire? After all, a fire can cause huge financial trouble to the landlord. However, the landlords who take landlord insurance seriously can save themselves from this setback. But, even after having the policy, the landlord has to pay for deductibles.
In the case of fire, a tenant might have lost their belongings and wish his landlord to bear the cost of it. The tenant now doesn’t have a place to live if it has been completely destroyed or is not safe to live at. In this situation, the tenant may want the landlord to return his rent or provide alternate accommodation.
If we talk about landlord responsibility for repairs in case of fire, the landlord has to anyway bear the cost. The cost though can cover from the landlord insurance policy. You are not responsible for tenants lost possessions. The tenant can claim it through their renter`s insurance policy. But, if the fire was a result of the tenant`s action. The tenant is responsible for paying the deductible cost of landlord policy. But then you should have a clause in your lease agreement
However, if the fire was a result of the landlord`s negligence and not due to unavoidable circumstances, the tenant can file a lawsuit against you for the damages. Also, if the timeline required for repair is not suitable for the tenant or is taking too long, either party can end the lease.
What if you don`t act on your Landlord repairs responsibilities in time?
As you now know that it is the landlord responsibility to the tenant for providing the warranty of habitability. And, you must have also got a clear insight into your landlord responsibilities for repairs from the above. So, let us also make you aware about the legal implications if you don`t act on your landlord responsibilities in time.
The tenant has various resorts under the law against you if you don`t act in time. No matter what your lease says. Failing to provide a safe and habitable environment to your tenant and delayed the repairs beyond a certain deadline. Your tenant can take these actions.
- Repair and Deduct the Cost from the Next Month Rent
- Paying Less than the Standard Rent
- Withholding the Rent
- Reporting to Health, Building and Safety Inspector
- Move out without the liability of complying to lease (Even if it is mid of month)
- Filing a Law Suit against you with the Court
How much time to act on your Landlord repairs responsibilities?
The Landlord repair`s law suggests that a landlord is bound to act on tenant maintenance concerns on time. In usual terms, if a maintenance issue has aroused which can pose risk to the tenant`s habitability and safety. A landlord must act on such concerns within 24 hours after the tenant has raised a written request.
If the maintenance issue which relates to minor repairs, a landlord can take up to 48 hours or more depending upon the nature of the problem and the time required to fix it. However, it is the landlord responsibility to convey the same to the tenant.
Pro Tip: Do remember, if you even have included a special clause in your lease that states the repair requests can take a month to get fixed. It is not in sync with the law and tenant can still take legal actions against the landlord in such cases. Avoid such unlawful lease agreements as it can drag you in a bigger problem. Better you only go for state specific leases.
Landlord Good Practices for Maintenance Requests
It is in the good interest of the landlord to avail these practices for maintenance request. Doing so, you can favor back your tenants and help your business grow even further.
- Set up a Tenant`s Repair Request Form for tenants to raise maintenance requests with ease.
- Give them an exact timeline of how much time the job can be done.
- Remember to give a written 24 hour advance notice to your tenants for the entry of either you or your service person`s before the repairs have to be done. In most states, you need to give proper notice before entry as per the law.
- If due to some reason, the place is not habitable and repair is taking a lot of time. Don`t hesitate to provide alternate accommodation or at least prorate the rent for that time period.
The Bottom Line
A lease plays an important role in determining the landlord responsibilities for repairs. You must put close attention on what goes into the lease and underline all the duties clearly. Never ever mistake to go with a general lease else you will risk your landlord business.
Have a state-specific lease for your rental business. Get it reviewed by an experienced attorney. It is also wise to educate yourself about the local and state laws surrounding your rental business. Believe me, you will learn daily as there is no dearth of experiences you will get into the property rental business.