When maintenance issues arise on your Florida rental property, it is crucial that you look into them as soon as possible. Certain problems, especially those that pose a health risk or safety hazard, must be dealt with immediately. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing long-drawn-out lawsuits.
What Maintenance Issues Should the Landlord Address?
Landlords are bound by the implied warranty of habitability. Although lease agreements are not required to specifically enumerate these obligations, landlords are expected to provide their tenants with dwellings that meet certain conditions. In simple terms, they are required to ensure that the rental property is habitable throughout the tenancy.
For a rental property to be considered livable, landlords must:
#1 Follow Building Codes
Building codes vary from state to state, but in general, they are designed to provide tenants with a safe environment. This includes installing smoke detectors, maintaining the structural integrity of the home, eliminating pests, treating mold growth, and so on.
#2 Provide Running Water
Tenants are entitled to have access to a stable source of water all year-round. Similarly, their rental unit must have a functioning sink, shower, and toilet. Landlords must also provide their tenants with an efficient heating system — this is especially true for rental properties in the northern regions.
#3 Supply Trash Bins
Tenants must have a place to put their trash. If you own a single-family rental property, you may provide your tenant with one trash bin, provided that it is big enough for the number of tenants living in the property. Keep in mind that some cities and neighborhoods may require an enclosure to be built around the trash bin.
#4 Maintain All Utilities
Landlords must ensure that all utilities, such as plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling appliances are in good working order. This, however, does not mean that the landlord is responsible for paying the utility bills. For instance, if the tenant’s heat gets cut off due to their non-payment, the landlord cannot be held liable.
How to Deal With Maintenance Issues at Your Rental Property
Every landlord deals with property maintenance issues. From complaints about leaking sinks to overflowing toilets, these issues can become a handful especially without the help of a trusted property management company. Follow the steps below to effectively handle maintenance issues and avoid getting into legal trouble.
#1 Develop a Maintenance Plan
You shouldn’t wait until the last minute to decide on how you are going to address basic maintenance issues and repair requests. Make a solid maintenance plan, which includes how requests will be received, who will address them, and so on. If you’ve decided to work with a property management company, your task will be to oversee that they’re handling all maintenance issues promptly and effectively.
#2 Receive the Tenant’s Repair Request
Your tenant should be able to contact you should there be maintenance issues on your rental property. It would be ideal to offer them multiple ways to communicate with you, such as by phone, text, e-mail, and so on. Keep in mind that repair requests should be addressed at all times — that includes during the middle of the night.
#3 Make a List of Every Possible Complaint
For first-time landlords, it can be difficult to assess whether a specific maintenance issue should be treated with the utmost urgency. It would be beneficial to prepare a list of common maintenance issues and rank them according to their seriousness. For instance, ‘High Urgency’ issues such as no heat should be fixed during the same day, while ‘Moderate Urgency’ issues such as clogged sinks may be addressed in 48 hours. ‘Low Urgency’ issues, such as a dripping faucet or running toilet, can be looked at within a week.
#4 Get to Know Your Local Vendors
Determining the severity of the maintenance issue will help you gauge whether you can complete the repair by yourself. If you don’t possess the skills or don’t have the tools required, it may be best to hire a professional. Prepare a list of local service providers, such as handymen, electricians, plumbers, pool cleaners, etc. whom you can call at moment’s notice.
If you’ve hired a property management firm, they’ve likely established a network of vendors who can offer quality services at the best possible prices.
#5 Notify Your Tenant
Even if you own the rental property, you are still not allowed to come unannounced. You must first notify your tenant as to when you intend to conduct the repairs. This will allow them to adjust their schedules, as some tenants may not feel comfortable with having strangers inside the home while they are away.
If the maintenance issue is located in a common area of a multi-family property, such as an apartment or condominium, you will have to inform all tenants who are living in the building — especially if the repair requires you to shut off the water, electricity, or gas.
What Will Happen if the Landlord Fails to Address Maintenance Issues?
Landlords may face several consequences if they fail to address maintenance issues within a reasonable period after receiving the repair request from their tenant.
First, tenants may withhold rent payment until the landlord completes the repairs. Next, tenants may handle the maintenance issues on their own. They have the option of hiring a third party to perform the repairs. The costs incurred will then be deducted from their next rent payment.
Landlords may find themselves in hot water if the maintenance issue puts their tenants’ health and safety at risk. Tenants may file a lawsuit against their landlord. Additionally, the landlord may face hefty fines and penalties imposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
What’s the Best Way to Avoid Possible Lawsuits?
Since maintenance issues can result in legal disputes, it’s important to understand your responsibilities as a landlord. A local property management company can help you avoid conflicts by ensuring that your rental property meets the requirements for habitability throughout the year.
At Luxury Property Care, we have a team of attorneys who specialize in landlord-tenant laws. We can provide you with the proper advice regarding your duties as a landlord so that you can continue to provide your tenants with a home that is safe and comfortable.