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Landlord/Tenant Law

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Landlords' and Tenants' Responsibility for Repairs

Key Takeaways:

  • Your landlord must ensure your rental unit meets local building codes and is safe to occupy.
  • Generally, your landlord is responsible for maintaining the building structure and repairing things that wear out due to age or ordinary wear and tear.
  • You're generally responsible for repairing the damage you cause and minor inconveniences, like changing light bulbs.

One advantage to being a renter is that your landlord must keep your living space habitable. That means they must ensure your rental unit meets local building codes and is safe to occupy.

This article explains the landlord and tenant’s responsibility for property repairs. State and local law governs the landlord-tenant relationship. It’s a good idea to contact a local landlord-tenant attorney if you’re having a dispute with your landlord about maintenance and repairs.

The Landlord’s Responsibility

The “implied warranty of habitability” is a concept from landlord-tenant law. It means that legally, your landlord must keep their rental properties in a habitable condition. Local housing codes determine what’s habitable in your area. Generally, your landlord must maintain the building structure and treat pest infestations. They also must make necessary repairs to things like the following:

  • Heating system
  • Air-conditioning
  • Hot water
  • Running water
  • Smoke detectors

Generally, your landlord must fix problems in a reasonable amount of time. Some states give the landlord a specific amount of time in which to make repairs. Your landlord must pay the cost of the repairs for anything that breaks from age or normal wear and tear.

The Tenant’s Responsibility

Generally, you have the following responsibilities for maintaining your living space:

  • Keep the dwelling clean and in good order.
  • Promptly report any repair or maintenance concerns to the landlord. If you don’t report a problem and it gets worse, you may have some responsibility for the repair. It’s essential to know your lease’s terms for reporting maintenance issues. For example, when you must give the landlord written notice of the problem.
  • Fixing any damage you cause beyond normal wear and tear from daily living. For example, you must fix the damage if your guest breaks a window.
  • Fixing minor inconveniences like changing a light bulb.

When you move in, you should walk through the apartment. Report any damage you see to the landlord. You may have to pay for the damage you cause. Your landlord can deduct the cost of repairs from your security deposit when you move out.

You may get a lower rent in return for taking responsibility for minor repairs. Your rental agreement should include the specifics of this arrangement. For example, keeping appliances such as refrigerators and stoves in working order could be up to you.

What Happens if Either Party Fails to Take Responsibility

You may find yourself in a dispute with your landlord over maintenance issues. The options available depend on who is responsible for the repair and your local laws. Your lease terms should clearly state what repairs you’re responsible for. You’re violating your lease if you don’t make those repairs. In that case, your landlord can start eviction proceedings against you.

If your landlord doesn’t make repairs in a reasonable time, you have some options. You may be able to make the repair and deduct the cost from your monthly rent. Be aware that this remedy is only available in some states. Where it is, its use might be limited to certain situations or to a certain number of times a year. You may also be able to end your lease early. Withholding rent until the landlord makes the needed repairs is another possibility.

State laws widely vary regarding who’s responsible for repairs to a rental property. You should speak with a local landlord-tenant attorney before taking any action. That way, you can ensure the repair is the landlord’s responsibility. An attorney can also ensure your actions are legal in your state.

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