Essential Obligations of a Landlord
Landlords have certain essential obligations that they must meet if they are in a leasing agreement with a tenant. Most of these obligations are derived from the local landlord/tenant laws that govern the lease. Obligations can also be specifically put into the lease itself. Every jurisdiction is a little different when it comes to a complete look at the essential obligations of a landlord, but here is a comprehensive general overview of what is required.
There Is a Responsibility To Provide Safety
A rental property should be safe to live within. Landlords are responsible for creating a structure that is secure. This may even include a general feeling of safety when tenants are home by themselves. This means any exterior access point should have working locks. This includes windows and all doors. Exterior doors should also be equipped with at least one deadbolt lock. Access to keys is also part of the landlord's obligations. No one else should have keys to the home. If previous tenants do not turn in their keys, then the locks need to be changed before a new tenant moves in to occupy the residence. It is common for landlords to give keys to Realtors or maintenance personnel, but these should either be reclaimed or be used for a generic lock that is easily replaced. Landlords must also have their properties up to code, including carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Outdoor areas should be free of hazards as well.
Landlords Are Responsible For Exterior Issues
Unless a tenant has damaged the exterior of the home because of direct action, landlords are generally responsible for the upkeep of a home so that it is clean and safe as well. This means taking action to fix roofing leaks, siding issues, or broken decking. Exterior concrete steps that crumble are a good example of an exterior safety issue which would need to be addressed. Landlords may put into their lease a requirement for tenants to provide property care and maintenance. This generally includes mowing, trimming, and weeding. Tenants cannot generally be held liable for tree services or specialty care needs a property may have. If a property has a fence, then it may also fall under the landlord's care to provide safety. Damages by tenants are their own responsibility, but weather damage to an exterior item is generally the responsibility of the landlord. Pest control also falls into this category. Fleas, bed bugs, or similar infestations caused by tenant conduct are not generally a landlord's responsibility, but roaches, rodents, and other pests may be.
Landlords Should Be Present For All Repairs
If you have maintenance personnel acting on your behalf to visit rental properties, then you are setting yourself up for a possible robbery claim. Repairs must have a prompt response and some are required within 24 hours. 24 hour repairs are generally defined as those that adversely affect the health or safety of the rental property. What are some examples of common 24 hour repair issues that may occur?
1. A hot water heater that begins to leak or fails to provide hot water.
2. A broken sump pump that backs up into the home.
3. An exterior lock on a window or door that fails to work properly.
Just because some repairs don't need to be completed within 24 hours doesn't mean that a timely response isn't necessary. Each jurisdiction has its own set standards of when a maintenance request must have a response. Many fall into the 7-10 day range.
Landlords Must Store Security Deposits
How a security deposit is stored for a tenant varies from state to state. In general, however, landlords must notify tenants as to where their security deposit is being held. Some landlords must keep a deposit in a separate account, but it can earn interest that the landlord is able to keep. Other laws require any interest to be paid as well minus damages or cleaning. Most landlords should also consider it an obligation to notify their tenants about obtaining renter's insurance. Most tenants are not covered under a landlord's policy, so in the case of a flood, a fire, or other disaster, their possessions would not receive any compensation without renter's insurance. This notification limits the chances of litigation occurring. Landlords may also be responsible for storing tenant possessions at certain times. This may occur during a move-out, property abandonment, or even during an eviction. By knowing what the essential obligations of a landlord happen to be in your area, it becomes easier to manage a rental property. Check your local landlord/tenant laws regularly to make sure you stay in compliance.
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