A landlord has the responsibility to keep their tenants and the surrounding community happy. Taking the proper care of the rental property plays a huge role in keeping everyone content. Following health and safety codes, performing regular maintenance, paying bills on time, and maintaining the proper insurance are all part of a landlord’s obligations. Learn seven ways a landlord can protect their property.
Responsibility to Follow Safety Codes
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to follow all local, state, and federal safety codes for your property. These codes can vary greatly depending on the state your rental property is in. You can find the responsibilities on the state level in your state's landlord-tenant law, but your town may have additional requirements, so you should always check your local laws.
Some examples of safety codes are:
- You must know how many smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required per apartment/floor and whether they must be hard wired.
- You must understand the dangers of lead paint in your property. You must know how to get rid of lead paint hazards according to the EPA’s guidelines and also be licensed to do so or hire a licensed professional.
- You must know how to get rid of mold in your property, especially toxic mold. The EPA has some tips on how to handle mold.
- You need to know the requirements for banisters and proper lighting in stairwells.
- You should know if there is a maximum number of people per bedroom or a maximum number of people per square feet.
- Whether you must use fire retardant paint in areas such as stairwells.
- If you must install safety guards on second-floor windows.
- Understand weather-related laws. In areas where snowfall is likely, many cities have safety codes requiring walkways to be salted and shoveled within a certain amount of time by the end of a snowstorm, such as two hours after the snowfall has ended.
Maintain the Proper Insurance
As a landlord, it is in your best interest to maintain the correct amount of insurance on your property. If you have a mortgage on the property, your lender will often require you to obtain certain types of insurance. It is to protect them in case of damage to your property, such as from fires, floods, or even a ‘slip and fall’ claim.
First, you must check your homeowner's insurance policy. Many homeowner's insurance policies do not cover renting. If not, you need, at the very least, to obtain basic landlord property insurance, which is insurance for the physical structure you rent out.
Basic insurance plus contents will cover your possessions in the building, such as tools or appliances. It will not cover the tenants’ possessions. Tenants will need to obtain separate renters insurance to cover their belongings and liability.
Other types of insurance to consider are
- Water Coverage
- Fire Coverage
- Flood Coverage
- Coverage for Natural Disasters
- Insurance to Cover Lawsuits and Legal Fees
- Insurance to Cover Lost Rental Income Due to Situations Like Fires or Natural Disasters.
Also, you may want to consider getting an umbrella insurance policy, which is an extra liability coverage. It can protect you from claims that may not be covered by your other liability insurance such as from libel, slander, or lawsuits. It can also protect you when you have reached your coverage limit from your other insurance policies.
If you have taken out a mortgage on your property or a private loan to buy your property, you are responsible for paying this loan back according to the set payment schedule you agreed on. If a mortgage payment is more than 30 days late, it will negatively impact your credit score. If you keep missing mortgage payments, you may face foreclosure.
Responsibility to Pay Taxes
Whether you are an owner-occupant of the property you are renting out or have a stand-alone rental property, you are responsible for paying property taxes to the government. You will also have to pay taxes on the income you receive from collecting rent.
However, as a landlord or property owner, there are many tax deductions you can take advantage of. These deductions include interest on mortgage payments or credit cards used for the property, depreciation, insurance premiums, repairs, and even property taxes.
Often, a tenant is responsible for paying their own utilities. Such is the case with most condos and single-family homes. However, if you are a landlord who is responsible for paying the utilities for your property, whether it be one utility or all, you must make sure you do so. Failure to pay the utility bill means your tenants won’t have water, heat, or electricity. It could be considered a violation of the lease because you are not providing essential services that you have agreed to provide and you could face legal action.
Landlords Must Perform Property Maintenance
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to perform regular maintenance on your property.
It includes preventative maintenance:
- Exterminating regularly.
- Checking to make sure all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working.
It also includes weekly maintenance:
- Such as sweeping all common areas,
- Cleaning out rain gutters,
- Picking up trash,
- Putting out garbage and recycling according to your town's collection schedule.
You must not only perform preventative maintenance, but you must also perform repairs on your property. It includes small repairs such as fixing doors coming off of their hinges or unclogging a shower drain. It also includes large repairs such as replacing a roof or rewiring electric. Of course, if you are not skilled in areas such as plumbing or electric, it is best to hire a licensed professional who will make sure the work is done properly and according to code.
What if you cannot rent your property? Learn about the Homeowner's Protection Act.