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Landlords' Duties: Repairs, Maintenance, and Notice to Tenants for Entry

Worried Woman Holding Bucket While Water Droplets Leak From Ceiling In Kitchen

With or without a rental agreement, landlords must ensure the rental property is habitable. This means the property complies with state and local housing codes. Landlords must maintain common areas and plumbing, make sure the heat works in the winter, and keep the rental property in working order.

In short, landlords have a legal duty to perform necessary repairs and maintenance for occupancy. This includes major repairs. Minor repairs, including replacing light bulbs and general upkeep, are often part of the tenant's responsibility.

Landlord Duties

Typically, the lease agreement outlines repair responsibilities for the landlord and the tenant. Landlords or property management usually bear the cost of repairs.

The following is a noninclusive list of repairs that are generally the landlord's responsibility:

  • Running water
  • Air conditioning (depending on state law)
  • Smoke detectors
  • Electrical systems
  • Functioning locks

Tenant Responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for minor repairs and general upkeep of the rental unit. The tenant pays for damages caused by a pet or guest.

Duty of Repairs and Maintenance

Residential landlords must ensure a rental property is habitable before a tenant moves in. After move-in, the landlord must make repairs and conduct maintenance to maintain habitability. Habitable properties include the following characteristics:

  • Free from pest infestation
  • Adequate heating
  • Hot water, smoke detectors, and electricity

Implied Warranty of Habitability

Although laws vary from state to state and city to city, an implied warranty of habitability is implicit in most residential leases. This means the rental property is suitable to live in.

Because of the varying nature of landlord duties, tenants should consult their state laws and city ordinances.

Remedies

If the landlord fails to make the necessary repairs after receiving written notice from a renter, the renter has several remedies. Tenants should give the landlord a reasonable time frame to make the repairs.

The remedies available to tenants include:

  • Withhold rent: If state law allows, tenants can withhold monthly rent until the landlord repairs the problem. In states like Maryland, a tenant can use a court-approved escrow account for rent payments until completion of the repairs.
  • Repair and deduct: Tenants make the repairs and deduct the cost of the repairs from their monthly rent.
  • Small claims court: The tenant can file an action in small claims court if the landlord ignores their request for necessary repairs.

Tenants should consult state and local laws before using any of these remedies.

Constructive Eviction

If the problem is intractable and disturbs the tenant's right to live in a habitable home, the tenant may end the tenancy. This could lead to a constructive eviction case.

These conditions must be met:

  • The tenant must prove that the landlord's lack of action led to the uninhabitable conditions.
  • The tenant must give the property owner written notice of reasons for constructive eviction and a reasonable amount of time to repair problems.
  • The tenant must show they left the rental property within a reasonable time.

Get Help

Landlord-tenant disputes are often complex and time-consuming. A qualified landlord-tenant attorney can provide legal advice based on landlord-tenant law in your state. Having a lawyer review your situation may be the best way to determine your options.

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