·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


What Things Are Landlords Responsible For?

— July 2, 2020

One thing to remember is that the tenant is just as important as the landlord. After you’ve got everything in order, make sure that you’re screening your renters properly.

Most people think that it’s great to be a landlord because you’re collecting rent from your tenants, and building long-lasting relationships with them. While there are certainly some benefits to being a landlord, it’s not always a smooth ride. If you end up renting out a space to an irresponsible occupant, you’ll have your hands full. If something breaks in the apartment or if a pipe bursts, responsibility also falls onto your lap.

While running your own apartment complex or home can be daunting, it doesn’t need to be. The key to being a successful landlord is to understand all of the legal responsibilities that you’ll need to shoulder when you get started. By arming yourself with all the necessary information, you’ll be able to avoid a slew of potential problems that might pop up in the future. 

What are the basics? 

As a landlord, you are responsible for providing a unit that’s habitable to your occupant. This means that the living area must be fit to live in, free from hazards and defects, and be compliant with all state and local building health codes.

While this might seem like common sense, you’d be surprised at the type of units that have been rented out. Uninhabitable places include having no utilities, broken windows or doors, mold, and generally an area that’s unkempt, unsanitary, and unsafe. If the living space is deemed as not being habitable, you run the risk of being sued and could be found negligent in a court of law. 

Take care of repairs

To avoid a scenario like the above from happening, the first thing you need to do is to take care of all repairs. You should perform all maintenance work necessary to help keep your renter’s home as livable as possible. Check that everything’s working in proper condition, that there’s no mold in the home, and spaces are habitable. 

The bathroom and kitchen in particular should be pristine as they play an integral role in health and hygiene. If you feel that they’re not quite meeting the necessary standards, consider remodeling both spaces into something that’s safe and clean, but avoid overspending as an investor. 

In most places, landlords are legally responsible for repairing defects and will be liable for any defects that cause injury to the occupant. What you’re not responsible for is if the defects were caused by the tenant.

Inspect everything 

All defects and hazards within the space need to be inspected before the move-in date. It’s your responsibility to investigate and identify any issues that are deemed harmful. Check that the electricity is working properly, that there’s no problem with the stove, and there’s no clogged waste disposal or improper plumbing. If any issues are found, then you could be held responsible for any injury or illness that has been inflicted upon the occupant. 

Return the security deposit

Bundles of U.S. paper money; image courtesy of, via CC0.
Bundles of U.S. paper money; image courtesy of, via CC0.

Once the rental agreement has ended, it’s your obligation to return the entire security deposit to the individual that lived in the unit – providing that there’s no damage done to the space (i.e. the normal wear and tear). If you keep any portion of the security deposit, you must provide an itemized list that clearly shows the breakdown of the damage and the actual cost of the repairs. 

What about leasing a space? 

For leasing spaces, they’re very much similar to what has been detailed above. You’re responsible for the maintenance and repair of the premises as well as any other utilities such as electricity and water that were agreed upon in the lease. 

However, what’s different about the leasing space is that you cannot force the tenant to renew more than 90 days before the termination of the current agreement, and you must provide at least a 30-day written notice if you choose not to renew the rental contract. 

Maintain a positive relationship 

If you’ve done all of the above, you’re on the path to being a successful landlord. There are plenty of positives reaped from being in this position, and it can be a fruitful experience if you know what you’re doing. One thing to remember is that the tenant is just as important as the landlord. After you’ve got everything in order, make sure that you’re screening your renters properly.

With a perfect renter, great upkeep with your properties, and doing thorough inspections, you’ll be all set. Lastly, maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with the occupants of your rentals is also key to help for minimizing any misunderstandings in the future.

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