What am I Obligated to Fix as a Landlord?

Rental properties provide owners with lucrative investment opportunities, but the job also comes with responsibilities to the tenant. Various federal, state and local laws require that landlords maintain a safe and habitable space for their tenants. Consulting an attorney about your legal responsibilities is an essential part of acting as a responsible landlord. However, it’s helpful to understand your responsibilities before you start searching for tenants and a property management company.

Routine maintenance before, during, and after your tenants inhabit your property is necessary for any landlord. The following maintenance duties will help you keep your tenants safe and happy. Bear in mind that these rules may exist at the local or state level and that examining your locale’s specific laws is essential for complete clarity and adherence to the law.

1. Routine Checks & Treatment for Infestations. Ants, roaches, and bed bugs are possible threats to all house and apartment dwellers, regardless of the home’s cleanliness.

2. Regular Maintenance of Major Home Systems. The plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems should meet local and state operational and safety standards.

3. Ensure the Structural Integrity of the Home. It should go without saying that a tenant should get to enjoy a structurally sound home in which to live.

Maintaining Tenant Safety & Happiness in Your Home

The safety and happiness of your tenants go hand-in-hand, and you’ll likely have a legal responsibility to maintain a safe environment for your tenants while they rent from you. You may want to take the following steps, which the law may require in any case.

1. Maintain safety equipment. Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms are a must for keeping your tenants safe, and local laws generally require that you install them, test them, and fix them. You may want to schedule a yearly test for all battery-operated detectors and alarms.

2. Maintain a well-lit property. You may need to fix motion-activated lights or maintain other exterior lighting for some properties. The law doesn’t require exterior lighting in all jurisdictions, but it’s a helpful feature regardless.

3. Exterior maintenance of the property. Some laws require that the landlord maintains the house’s exterior, but that doesn’t always mean you’re responsible for things like mowing, weeding, and watering. However, features like stairs, chimneys, and exterior structures will require fixing on occasion.

Remember that local laws frequently require landlords to give anywhere from 24- to 72-hour notice that someone must enter their residence for repairs or maintenance. It’s also polite to warn tenants you need to enter when it’s not an emergency.

Respond to Requests for Maintenance and Repairs

Your tenant will need to keep a reasonably clean residence that reduces the likelihood of problems like pest infestations, mold growth, and trash buildup. However, you’ll want to respond promptly to repair requests that go beyond the scope of the tenant’s responsibilities. 

Problems with the HVAC system, plumbing, and electrical system require a swift response. Issues like pests, mold, and security concerns should also receive a quick reaction. As a landlord, your property management company can act as the point of contact for your tenants when they have an essential or emergency repair request.