When Is A Tenant Responsible For Repairs?
When is a tenant responsible for repairs? Clearly leases should set this out in plain language, but sometimes it is simply not clear who is supposed to pay for what and landlords often leverage this situation to escape doing their duties. Home repairs are always frustrating, but as a tenant it’s especially unwelcome when you’re effectively paying to maintain the value of a property you yourself don’t own. Tenants need to ensure they’re educated on the issue so as to prevent landlords exploiting them, and to make sure they have a safe and habitable home environment.
Check On Local Legislation
Legislation about home repairs varies across the United States and some states offer more protection to tenants than others. In every state, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide habitable living conditions in rented property. That means that essential maintenance and repairs that could render a property unliveable are the landlord’s duty to fix. For example, a broken lock on your front door renders the property unsafe just as a broken heater makes a property uninhabitable. In each of these situations the state mandates that landlords are responsible for the repair.
Certain states go further. In Washington, for example, it is written into law that tenants are responsible only for damage they have caused themselves – everything else falls to the landlord. It’s essential to know your rights in case of a costly repair.
Laws enforcing landlords to maintain a property to liveable standards are of course open to interpretation and you may have difficulty arguing with your landlord about the definition of liveable. For example, if an apartment has just one restroom, a broken toilet is clearly a major problem and should fall within the remit of landlord repairs. “However, in an apartment with two restrooms, a single broken toilet doesn’t pose such a problem and a landlord may be reluctant to shell out to fix it. Be prepared to argue your case and, as ever, know the law,” explains Daniel Simon, a writer at OXEssays.
Minor repairs and cosmetic issues often fall into a grey area. Whilst a reputable landlord will respond to legal pressure and tenant concerns to fix significant issues in a property, and in some states maintenance of wear and tear will also fall under their remit. However stained carpets, mould around cornicing and old white goods may not be a concern of the landlord, no matter how much they impact your living environment. Tenants can take steps to handle minor concerns themselves such as mildew in the shower or broken light bulbs, keeping a property in good condition and allowing landlords to handle major issues. A good rule of thumb is that a mild nuisance can easily be fixed by a tenant rather than escalating into a dispute with a landlord.
Dealing With Disputes
Unfortunately a lack of clarity in the law can often lead to disputes with landlords, especially those who are disinterested in the state of their property or a decline it may be taking over time. Interpretations of “habitable” conditions leave landlords a degree of leeway when it comes to making repairs, and often this will come into conflict with a tenant’s expectations of living standards.
In some states, such as California, the “repair and deduct” method gives tenants recourse to maintain a property themselves and reclaim funds from landlords by taking the cost out of their rent. In California this comes with some caveats: the landlord must have had adequate time, and failed to use it, to repair the issue themselves, and the cost deducted is capped at one month’s rental cost.
“Where this isn’t an option, tenants should be prepared to fight for their rights and obligate landlords to perform the required upkeep. Responsible landlords will do this naturally but at times tenants may need to reach out to the authorities to enforce landlords to practice their responsibilities,” says Ian Smith, a blogger at Writing Services.
All states offer some protection for tenants, so the most important thing for anyone thinking about renting property is that they educate themselves on their rights and the obligations of their landlord. Handling minor nuisances is a tenant’s responsibility and encourages landlords to fulfil their duties when it comes to ensuring a property is ultimately habitable.
Katherine Rundell is an editor at BoomEssays Review and Academized Reviews services and a legal writer at Best Essay Services. She works for Tenant Rights, a charity organization campaigning to ensure landlords meet their obligations across the Western United States.