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As a rental property manager, you have a legal obligation to provide a residence that is up to code and legally habitable. What does that mean?

Tenant complaints can range from minor issues such as a small faucet leak to cosmetic issues like the color the countertops; however, neither of these affects the implied warranty of habitability that every landlord must live up to.

 

What Is the Implied Warranty of Habitability? 

Advice for landlordsEach landlord or rental property manager has a duty to provide a fit and habitable home for their tenants. This concept is applied to every rental property whether a condo, multi-family home, or single-family home and is not tied to how much rent is paid by the tenant. Regardless of the terms spelled out in the lease, landlords must provide a home that has:

  • a safe and sound structure including roof, walls, stairs, and other structural elements
  • no mold, either visible or hidden
  • well maintained and safe common areas
  • mechanical systems such as HVAC, plumbing, sewage, and elevators that are working properly
  • hot and cold running water
  • a system for trash removal
  • a process to manage environmental threats so they don't pose a significant danger to the tenant such as lead-based paint and asbestos
  • no rodent or insect infestation

Even if the lease doesn't cover these items, the landlord must address any major repairs that affect the home's habitability in a timely manner.  If the home is deemed to be uninhabitable because of a safety or mechanical issue, the tenant can legally withhold rent payments, fix the problem and subtract the cost from the rent, sue you, or even move out with no notice and no financial obligation.

 

how to handle major repairsMajor vs. Minor Repairs

Tenant complaints can be categorized in two ways: major and minor repairs. You might be surprised that the difference between these two categories has nothing to do with cost. An expensive, but cosmetic repair, such as worn carpet or a dinged-up countertop, may make the property unattractive to a renter, but does not affect the home's overall habitability and is considered a minor repair. 

Major repairs are those that affect the home's habitability and should be considered deal-breakers. These may be costly or inexpensive repairs, but until they are made, the home is uninhabitable. A major repair can be anything that endangers the health and safety of a resident. For example, a small roof leak that causes a water stain is a minor repair while an ongoing leak that causes the drywall to fall or mold and mildew is a major repair. 

 

rental property managementLandlord Maintenance Plan

As a rental property manager, you should take all tenant complaints seriously and have a process for addressing the major issues. Not only is this part of your legal responsibility as a landlord, but it will help you keep your rental property in top shape. In case of a major repair, 

  • provide tenants with a 24-hour emergency number to reach you
  • understand that major repairs often require emergency services by a professional
  • realize these can happen at any time and require an immediate response

Minor repairs, which can still be concerning, may also require attention. A tenant who is unhappy about the dripping bathroom faucet, shabby living room carpet, or the condition of the bathroom tile is not likely to stick around after the lease is up. At Bargain Outlets, our Landlord Program can help you save money every day and keep your rental properties in tip-top shape. 

 

Janet A. excels at writing articles on a wide variety of topics. Some of her favorites are about food, home living, health and wellness, education, and family. She has written blog posts for a wide range of clients. 

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