Landlord's Responsibilities to Their Tenants
From Safety to Security Deposits
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to your tenants. While you expect them to pay rent each month, when they signed that lease, they have certain expectations of you as well. Here are some of the responsibilities a landlord has to their tenants.
Responsibility to Maintain a Safe Environment
A tenant expects their home to be safe. As a landlord, you are responsible for providing your tenants with a secure place to reside.
Your tenants should feel safe inside of their apartment. This means you should ensure all doors and windows are properly secured and have appropriate working locks. All front doors should, at the very least, have a deadbolt lock.
You should also make sure no one else has a key to the tenant’s apartment. You should always change the locks once a prior tenant moves out and before a new one moves in. If you are going to give keys to realtors to show your vacancies, make sure to use a generic lock and then replace the lock prior to your tenant moving in.
You should not allow unsupervised repairmen inside a tenant’s apartment as this could lead to claims of robbery. You should make sure you have followed all safety codes such as installing working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Tenants should feel safe outside of the building as well. Make sure any outdoor areas are well lit and free from hazards, such as a broken step or unstable handrail.
If you have a multi-unit property, tenants should feel safe with the other tenants in the building. You need to properly screen all tenants who are looking to rent your property and check for criminal history or other red flags. You should also be wary of allowing any animals that are considered dangerous breeds. These types of animals have a higher propensity to bite and can make other tenants feel uncomfortable.
Maintain a Quiet Environment
A tenant expects their home to be quiet. Again, when screening tenants, you should look for those you believe will be respectful of others. You should also have a strict quiet hours policy in your property that all tenants must consent to - for example: no loud noises, music, or otherwise, after 10pm.
Responsibility to Maintain a Clean Environment
A tenant expects their home to be clean. While you are not responsible for washing a tenant’s dishes or picking their clothes up off the floor, as a landlord, you do have certain responsibilities to maintain the property as a whole.
You need to make sure trash is taken out, either by yourself or through an agreement with a tenant or superintendent. You need to make sure common areas are well cared for; that they are free from garbage, mopped or vacuumed on a set schedule, and have working light bulbs. You must maintain outdoor areas in the same manner; make sure the grass is cut, outdoor lights are functioning, and the yard is free from debris.
If a tenant has a problem with rodents, roaches, bedbugs or other, you will need to rid the problem yourself or hire a professional to do so. Be careful of putting down insecticides without a license as you may take on additional liability for doing so.
Respond to Repair Requests Promptly
A tenant pays rent to reside in your property. It is your duty to them to respond to requests for repairs in a reasonable amount of time. The severity of the repair should warrant how quickly you should respond. A cabinet door off of its hinges does not need immediate attention but should still be taken care of in no more than a week.
Lack of heat in the winter is a repair that requires immediate attention, both for the safety of the tenant and for the benefit of your property. The lack of heat may cause your water pipes to freeze and that could lead to thousands of dollars in repair costs. Also, you could face legal ramifications if you are at fault for the heat not being on—for example: the lack of heat is due to a faulty furnace and not because the tenant did not pay their gas bill.
Landlords Should Advise All Tenants to Purchase Renters Insurance
Many tenants do not know they are not covered under your insurance policy. You should advise all tenants to purchase renters insurance so their possessions are protected in the event of a fire, flood, or other disaster. Renters insurance can also help protect their liability for an accident a guest may have inside of their apartment. Renters insurance can be purchased for as little as $10 a month.
Properly Store Tenants' Security Deposits
As a landlord, it is your legal responsibility to keep a tenant’s security deposit according to your state's laws. Many states are different, so you will have to check with your state to learn what is required.
In New Jersey, landlords with 10 or more rental units must keep their tenant’s security deposit in a separate interest bearing account. They must also inform the tenant in writing, within 30 days, of the amount of their security deposit, where their security deposit is being held and the interest rate.
The landlord is also responsible for informing the tenant annually of how much interest the security deposit has earned, for informing the tenant if their security deposit is transferred to another account and for informing the tenant if the property changes ownership. The landlord must also return the deposit and any interest, minus deductions for damages or other allowed expenses, within 30 days of the lease termination.