Maintaining Rental Property: Landlord Responsibilities
The legal obligations landlords have to keep their property in shape
The landlord-tenant law requires landlords to maintain their rental property. Although the specific requirements will differ slightly by state, there are general responsibilities that all landlords will have. Here are six ways a landlord must keep up with property maintenance.
Maintaining the Rental Property Involves:
- Adhering to Building Codes
- Performing Repairs
- Maintaining Common Areas
- Keeping Vital Services Functioning
- Providing Proper Trash Receptacles
- Supplying Running Water
Landlords are responsible for protecting the safety of their tenants. One way to do this is by making sure the property complies with all local building and safety codes. Building and safety codes can regulate:
- Lead-Based Paint for Properties Built Before 1978
- Toxic Mold
- Maximum Number of People Per Unit
- Smoke Detectors
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Adequate Lighting in Common Areas
- Safety Guards on Windows
- Use of Fire Retardant Paint
- Electrical Wiring
- Structural Integrity of the Building
Most towns will require you to have your property inspected before you can place tenants in the property. These inspectors are checking to make sure the property complies with all the safety codes, such as having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and meets the standards for habitability, such as having running water.
A landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is in habitable condition. This involves making all repairs and doing whatever else is “reasonably” necessary to keep the property in good condition. For example, fixing a roof leak would be a “reasonably” necessary repair. However, replacing the entire roof because of one small leak would not be reasonable or necessary.
Maintain Common Areas
Under landlord-tenant law, a landlord is responsible for maintaining all common areas of the building. This involves making sure they are:
- Safe- Keeping the area safe would involve making sure it has adequate lighting and that these lighting fixtures are in working condition and have working light bulbs. It also means keeping the area free from hazards that could cause injuries, such as faulty banisters or unsafe stairs.
- Clean- The responsibility to keep common areas clean often only applies to properties that have more than one unit. The area does not have to be pristine, but it does need to be consistently free from trash and other debris. If a tenant is responsible for the common area being consistently dirty, then the landlord can send a notice to quit the behavior. If the behavior does not stop, the landlord may be able to file for an eviction.
Keep Electricity, Plumbing, Etc. Functioning
A landlord is responsible for ensuring that all vital processes are in functioning order. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Central Air Conditioning (If Applicable)
- Appliances that Have Been Supplied by the Landlord
- Elevators (If Applicable)
This requirement is not for the landlord to actually supply the utility to the tenant. It is just to make sure the systems to supply them are in good and functioning order. Whether the utilities, such as heat and electricity, are included in the price of the rental and thus the responsibility of the landlord, is a separate issue that should be spelled out in the lease agreement.
Provide Trash Receptacles
Landlords are required to provide the appropriate garbage cans or recycling bins for debris. These bins should be equipped for storing the trash until it is time for removal.
The size of the bins and the number of bins must be appropriate for the size of the rental property. For example, one trash bin for a 20 unit building is not going to cut it. The landlord is also responsible for the removal of this trash, whether it be taking it out themselves or arranging for someone else to do so.
Supply Running Water
Under the landlord-tenant act, a landlord is responsible for providing the tenant with running water. The landlord is also responsible for providing adequate heat in the cold months, air conditioning in the warm months (if the unit has central air conditioning) and hot water. Units in which these utilities are directly installed and can only be directly controlled by the tenant and are connected directly to a public utility do not have to follow this rule.