- In most jurisdictions, landlords are responsible for maintaining the rental property and ensuring it is in a habitable condition. This means that the landlord is generally responsible for major repairs such as structural issues, plumbing and electrical systems, and heating and cooling systems.
- Tenants are typically responsible for minor repairs and day-to-day maintenance. This includes fixing the damages done by Residents or their guests and returning the unit to its original appearance.
- There are several steps tenants can take if their landlord fails to address maintenance requests, including reduced or withheld monthly payment, taking charge of maintenance, applying fines/penalties, and/or constructive eviction.
Renting a property can be a convenient and flexible housing solution for many individuals and families. Whether you’re a tenant seeking a comfortable place to call home or a landlord looking to earn income from your property, understanding the rights and responsibilities when it comes to repairs is crucial for a harmonious rental experience.
Who exactly is responsible for repairs in a rental property? The answer can vary depending on various factors, such as local laws, the terms of the lease agreement, and the nature of the repair itself. In this blog post, we will delve into this topic, shedding light on the roles and obligations of both Owners and Residents in ensuring the maintenance and repair of a rental property.
Owner’s maintenance responsibilities
One essential aspect of being a homeowner is the responsibility for property maintenance. Owners play a crucial role in ensuring their properties are well-maintained and habitable for their tenants. These maintenance responsibilities encompass a wide range of tasks, which we will discuss in this section.
Legal repair obligations of Homeowners
Duty to provide habitable premises: Owners have a legal obligation to ensure that the rental property meets basic habitability standards. This includes maintaining the structural integrity of the building, ensuring proper sanitation, and providing essential utilities such as water, electricity, and heating.
Compliance with building codes and safety regulations: Homeowners must also comply with local building codes and safety regulations. This involves addressing any health and safety hazards, like faulty wiring, mold, or pest infestations that may affect the well-being of tenants.
Repairs related to health and safety: Broken windows, leaking roofs, plumbing problems, and faulty electrical systems are just some concerns that may impact the well-being of tenants. Because of this, owners are also responsible for addressing these issues to ensure the habitability of their property.
Maintaining common areas: Depending on what type of property, owners are typically responsible for the maintenance and repair of common areas, such as hallways, staircases, and outdoor spaces. This includes tasks like cleaning, lighting, and ensuring proper functionality of shared amenities.
Common repairs covered by Homeowners
Structural repairs: Generally speaking, owners are responsible for structural repairs. This includes the foundation, walls, roof, and floors of the rental property. This also covers cracks in the walls, roof leaks, and structural damage caused by natural disasters.
Plumbing and electrical repairs: From fixing leaks and unclogging drains to repairing outlets, Owners are typically responsible for repairing these within the rental property.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) repairs: Another responsibility for Homeowners is the maintenance of the HVAC systems. This covers furnaces, air conditioners, and ventilation systems, as well as regular servicing, repairs, and replacement if necessary.
Appliance repairs: If the rental property is furnished with appliances provided by the Owner, such as a refrigerator, stove, or dishwasher, they are responsible for repairing or replacing them if they break down due to normal wear and tear.
Pest control: Owners are generally responsible for addressing pest infestations that are not caused by the tenant’s negligence or poor housekeeping. This includes taking necessary measures to eliminate pests like rodents, insects, or termites from the rental property.
It’s important to note that the specific responsibilities of landlords may vary depending on local laws, lease agreements, and the terms outlined in the rental contract. It’s always advisable for both landlords and tenants to familiarize themselves with the specific rights and responsibilities established by their local jurisdiction and lease agreement.
What happens if Homeowners fail to make the necessary repairs?
First thing to note for Residents is that they are required to give reasonable notice to Owners for necessary repairs. Now, if the latter fails to fix the issue in a reasonable time, a number of consequences may happen.
Reduced or withheld monthly payment
Depending on which state you’re living in, Residents could stop paying rent until the repair is done or they can simply put the payment in an escrow account, which will be given to the Owner after fixing the problem.
Another alternative for tenants is to pay reduced rent. This is only until the owner finishes the repair. This is a fair solution for both parties when maintenance repairs are taking longer than expected.
Tenants take charge of maintenance
If the Owner takes an unreasonable amount of time to address maintenance concerns, then you can hire a third-party service provider to accomplish the necessary repairs. In return for resolving the issue through your own efforts, you are allowed to deduct the repair cost from your next rent payment, given that the pricing is reasonable.
Fines and/or penalties
In the event that the Homeowner still has not resolved the maintenance issue, Residents may seek assistance from local authorities. After an inspector verifies the problem, an order will be issued requiring the Owner to fix the issue. This may also result in fines and/or penalties for the landlord.
Lastly, if Residents find the rental property uninhabitable due to unaddressed maintenance issues, they may move out, immediately terminating the lease agreement. Then, a constructive eviction lawsuit may be filed against the Homeowner.
For this lawsuit to be successful, three things must be presented by the Resident:
- Proof of the Owner’s inaction to resolve the issue, resulting in an uninhabitable property.
- A written notice from the Resident to the Owner stating reasons for the constructive eviction, which should include ample time for the latter to take action.
- Proof that the Resident left the rental in a reasonable time.
If unable to provide a strong counter-argument, Owners may face financial liabilities for breaching the lease terms and tenancy, attorney fees, discomfort felt by the residents stemming from the unfavorable conditions, and emotional and physical distress endured.
When are tenants liable for repairs?
Damages made by the tenant or their guests
During their tenancy, Residents are responsible for keeping the property in top condition. In case they or their guests damage interior or exterior fixtures and finishes, they should have it fixed. This includes but is not limited to damages to walls, floors, ceilings, etc.
If the property is furnished and comes equipped with appliances, this is also covered under this condition.
Also, depending on the lease agreement and local laws, Owners may do the maintenance repairs but deduct the cost from the tenant’s security deposit.
Reverting the rental unit to its original appearance
Unless their lease agreement allows tenants to make changes in the property, every modification should be returned to its original condition. For example, if the tenant decides to paint the wall differently, they are obligated to paint it back to its original color once the tenancy is done.
Determining who is responsible for maintenance repairs in a rental property is not always a straightforward matter. It depends on a variety of factors, including local laws, lease agreements, and the nature of the repair itself.
Landlords generally have the primary obligation to maintain the habitability and safety of the rental unit, while tenants are responsible for promptly reporting issues and taking reasonable measures to prevent further damage.
By recognizing and respecting the repair responsibilities, tenants and landlords can foster a positive relationship based on trust and accountability. It is important for both parties to familiarize themselves with local regulations and consult legal advice when needed to ensure compliance and fair treatment.