Whether you’re thinking about becoming a rental property owner or you’re a seasoned landlord, there’s still a chance that your residential property isn’t up to code. Housing and building codes require landlords to maintain certain standards of safety and habitability. Violations of the code can lead to serious repercussions, including lawsuits, expensive fines, and more.
There are dozens of standards that you need to comply with, but below, we’ve rounded up some of the most important ones. So before you plan your home renovations with your interior designer, take the time to familiarize these residential housing codes for rental properties.
Residential Housing Code for Exterior
The foundation is the backbone of your investment property. To be up to code, it must be structurally sound and weather-resistant. This means that there should be no corrosion, cracking, leaning, etc. in any part of the foundation. Additionally, make sure to keep water out of the crawl space as this can lead to mold and mildew, which not only result in structural damage but can also cause serious health concerns.
#2 Exterior Stairs
Exterior stairs, such as ones on the deck or patio, should show no signs of decay. Their parts should be complete — missing balusters, newels, steps, and more are an absolute no-no. Handrails that are more than thirty inches above ground should be graspable, otherwise, they will be deemed unsafe.
Every housing unit should have a functioning heating unit. Although Florida may be on the sunnier side, residential properties still require a pre-installed heating system that can maintain comfortable temperatures in every room including the bathroom. The temperature should be easily adjustable — the recommended indoor temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit if the outdoor temperature is over 24 degrees Fahrenheit.
#4 Exterior Walls
One of the things to consider when preparing a property for new renters is the exterior wall. Housing codes require that exterior walls should be free from cracks, holes, and other imperfections that might allow air and water to enter the home. Exterior walls must be weather-proof and rodent-proof. It’s also important to make sure that exterior walls show no signs of mold or mildew.
Don’t wait for your tenants to complain about a foul smell coming from the basement. This awful smell is often caused by a poor drainage system, including clogged drains, leaking pipes, and similar plumbing issues. Before opening your home to prospective tenants, consider contracting the services of a professional plumber who can assess the condition of your drainage and plumbing fixtures. Your rental property should smell like a warm hug, not like a damp sewer.
Residential Housing Code for Interior
Proper ventilation can improve the air quality inside a home by eliminating allergens and pollutants that can cause mold and trigger health concerns such as asthma. Without provisions for ventilation, moisture can easily build up inside a home, eventually creating bad odors that will make your tenants want to open all of their windows. This is why the Florida housing code requires all habitable rooms, including bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens, to have a sufficient ventilation system. If the room has no windows, an alternative is using mechanical ventilation systems like ducts and fans.
Most homeowners consider their garage as a separate structure, which isn’t always true, since most single-family homes have garages that are connected to the rest of the house. Hazardous fumes such as carbon monoxide can easily enter the home, which is why the Florida housing code bans garages that lead directly into a bedroom. If the garage is connected to the residence, the walls that separate them should be reinforced with solid wood, steel, or a fire-rated door. Likewise, if the garage is situated underneath a habitable room, they should be separated by a Type X drywall.
#3 Smoke Alarms
Your tenants are your responsibility. Equipping your rental property with smoke alarms can spell the difference between saving and losing a life. Smoke alarms should be installed properly, with one on each floor for multi-story residences. According to the Florida building code, smoke alarms should be present inside and directly outside each bedroom. Aside from installing them in habitable areas, basements and attics should also have one smoke alarm each. Fire alarms should be placed away from stoves, burners, and fireplaces to prevent false alarms.
#4 Means of Egress
A means of egress is an unobstructed path from the building to a safe outdoor area. Often referred to as the ‘emergency escape’ or ‘emergency exit’, the means of egress should provide a direct connection between an occupied space and the exterior of the residence. There should be at least one egress door per property — in single-family homes, this can be as simple as an exterior door, while for apartments, this might include enclosed stairwells and exit passageways.
#5 Room Dimensions
When renovating your investment property, it’s crucial to keep in mind the minimum room dimensions provided under the Florida residential code. Every residence must have at least one habitable room that runs a minimum of 120 square feet. Typically, this room becomes the living area, while the rest of the habitable rooms should have a floor area of 70 square feet at a minimum. Interior walls should not measure less than 7 feet in length, and the kitchen cannot have a floor area of less than 50 square feet.
Worried That Your Rental Property Isn’t Up to Code?
Landlords can find themselves in hot water for violating the housing code. For minor code violations, you will most likely be given a reasonable amount of time to correct your mistakes. However, when inspectors find that the violations place the residence’s inhabitants in danger, they may order the property to be vacated immediately. Also, tenants have the right to withhold rent if your rental isn’t up to code.
To prevent any of these from happening, you should consider hiring a property management firm that can ensure your compliance with local and state regulations. By working with Luxury Property Care, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that your rental property is at no risk of violating the Florida housing code.