Being a landlord comes with a number of responsibilities regarding the maintenance of your property, with state and local laws requiring you to ensure that tenants have a clean and safe living space, as well as responding to requests for maintenance within a reasonable amount of time. However, the landlord isn’t the only one with responsibilities for keeping a rental property maintained, as tenants must also make an effort to keep their property in good condition. It is important for all property managers to know and establish which repairs are their responsibility and which must be covered by their tenants, otherwise you run the risk of creating tension and unnecessary conflict.
If you’re not sure which repairs are your responsibility, give this helpful guide a read!
The Responsibilities of a Landlord
In most states, a landlord must make sure that their property is in a habitable condition when the tenant first moves in, along with making repairs and conducting regular maintenance that ensures that the property remains habitable.1 While the exact specifications for what counts as “habitable” can vary from state to state or even city to city, the main requirements are fairly consistent:2 3
● The property must be structurally sound and intact
● The property’s common areas (hallways and stairways) must be clean and safe
● The property must have working electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilation
● The property must have reasonable protection from criminal intrusion
● The property must be free of vermin or infestation
● The property must be free of environmental hazards like asbestos, lead paint, or bed bugs
Additional requirements for “habitable living” might include access to trash cans or access to air conditioning in states that are known for especially hot summers.4 Also, there are typically requirements for maintaining reasonable noise levels, especially at night. These requirements for maintaining a habitable space are sometimes referred to as the “implied warranty of habitability,” as even if the lease does not state these requirements in writing, it is implied in the lease itself.5
Along with guaranteeing that a property is habitable, a landlord often has certain responsibilities for tenants and their safety. This can include maintaining locks, providing safety equipment, and conducting proper screenings and background checks for both tenants and personnel. The exact requirements can vary based on state or local laws though, so be sure to double-check what your city or state requires.6
In addition, landlords are required to respond to repair requests and perform repairs, especially if there are any issues that would affect the tenant’s quality of life or their ability to live comfortably. Exact response times will vary based on the severity of the issue: if a tenant has experienced a major issue that impacts livability, you generally must respond within 24 hours of the complaint, with lesser concerns allowing for a bit more leeway. 7A landlord must always notify their tenants before entering a rental property as well, and they may only enter during normal business hours, with the exception of an emergency).8
The Responsibilities of the Tenant
First and foremost, a tenant must keep their rental property as clean and safe as possible. A landlord might be required to address any major habitability problems, if those problems are the result of the tenants’ own actions, then they must pay for the cost of repairs. This however does not include everyday wear and tear, such as carpet that has worn out from years of use.
Some of a tenant’s obligations include:9
● Disposing of garbage and other waste
● Keeping plumbing fixtures clean
● Maintaining all provided appliances
● Using all amenities (including electricity, heating, air conditioning, etc.) in a proper manner
● Fixing things that they break or damage
Though landlords are expected to make repairs and address potential problems with the property, it typically falls on the tenant themselves to keep track of and flag these issues. Tenants need to let landlords know about needed repairs as soon as possible, as what starts out as an easy fix early on can quickly become serious if it goes unreported and unrepaired. In some cases, a tenant may even be liable for any additional damages that wouldn’t have occurred if they had reported sooner.
Other scenarios where a tenant could be found liable include:10
● Misuse of designated rooms
● Damage caused by pet policy violations
● Damage caused by negligence or reckless conduct.
● Tampering with/removing fixtures, appliances, or smoke/carbon monoxide detectors
● Violation of occupancy requirements
● Blocking of emergency exits
● Using the premises for unlawful purposes
A Cooperative Effort
Ultimately, while landlords have a number of important responsibilities regarding the maintenance of rental properties, they are not alone in their duty. Tenants also have their own obligations to fulfill, and it is only by working together that a property can be effectively maintained. By knowing and establishing everyone’s responsibilities, whether face-to-face or in the lease, it is possible to avoid conflict and guarantee that your property is as safe and comfortable as possible.
1. FindLaw. (2020, February 10). Landlords’ Duties: Repairs, Maintenance, and Notice to Tenants for Entry. FindLaw. https://www.findlaw.com/realestate/landlord-tenant-law/landlords-duties-regarding-repairs-maintenance-and-to-provide.html.
2. Nicely, T. (2020, February 27). Landlord Responsibilities and Duties of a Tenant: Zillow Rental Manager. Zillow. https://www.zillow.com/rental-manager/resources/landlord-rental-maintenance-laws/. 3. O’Connell, A. (2020, October 2). Tenant Rights to a Livable Place. www.nolo.com. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights-book/chapter7-2.html.
4. Deziel, C. (2020, August 25). What makes a rental property habitable? Landlordology. https://www.landlordology.com/rental-property-habitable/.
5. Chen, J. (2019, September 19). Implied Warranty of Habitability. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/iwoh.asp.
6. Nicely, T. (2020, February 27).
7. Nicely, T. (2020, February 27).
8. FindLaw. (2018, September 6). Requirements for Landlord. FindLaw. https://www.findlaw.com/realestate/landlord-tenant-law/requirements-for-landlord-entry.html.
9. Stewart, M. (2014, October 29). Tenant Repair and Maintenance Responsibilities. www.nolo.com. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights-book/chapter7-3.html.
10. Nicely, T. (2020, February 27).