One of the common causes of disputes between owners and tenants is property maintenance. When tenants don’t do what the landlord wants them to do (or the other way around), it can create ill feelings between the two. Standards that aren’t set can result in finger-pointing, which is why one of the things you need to do as the landlord is to define your tenants’ duties. However, that does not mean that you’re free from your responsibilities – as the real estate investor, you still have obligations to your tenants.
In this guide, we’ll draw the line between the landlord and the tenant’s responsibilities. Remember to write these down in the lease agreement so that your tenants are legally bound to abide by their obligations.
It’s worth mentioning that the guidelines in this list are general guidelines. With that said, there may be other laws that apply to your particular property. It would be wise to consult a property management company to ensure that you follow all of the applicable laws.
What are the landlord’s responsibilities in a rental property?
Here are a few general guidelines on what you’re responsible for in your South Florida rental property:
#1 Pest Control
As the property owner, you have to provide your tenants with a sanitary environment. Hence, pest control on your rental property is on you. If your tenant reports a pest issue, it’s your responsibility to nip the problem in the bud. As part of property management, you should include pest control inspections in your checklist to keep unwanted creepy crawlies away.
It’s worth mentioning that you won’t always be held responsible for pests. Tenants can be held liable if their negligence caused the pest infestation.
The rental property should be mold-free before your tenants move in. If mold appears in the middle of the tenancy due to a leak, your task is to repair it. Besides, it’s in your best interests to get rid of mold, considering that it can damage the home’s structure. By dealing with mold now, you can save yourself from costly repairs down the road.
Again, if the mold was caused by your tenant’s negligence (e.g. they did not clean the property at all), then they would be held liable.
#3 Heating and Cooling
As the real estate investor, you’re responsible for providing your tenants with a habitable property – and that includes hot water, cold water, heating, and air conditioning. In general, it’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re in good working order throughout the year. If your rental property’s HVAC fails to function, you need to get it up and running as soon as possible. Some states even have “time limits” in which you need to complete these repairs. Make sure to check with your property management company if your state has specific laws on these.
#4 Changing the Locks
Make sure to change the locks every time a tenant moves out. That way, your previous tenant won’t be able to enter the property whenever they want. Even if you ask your previous tenant to return the key, they may have made duplicates. Since it’s your duty to ensure your tenants’ safety, make sure to change the locks. If you’re a long-distance landlord, you can hire a South Florida property management firm to do this for you.
What are the tenant’s responsibilities in a rental property?
Now that you know what your duties are, it’s time to look at what your tenants are supposed to do. Like you, your tenants need to stay on top of certain tasks and make sure that the rental unit is well-maintained at all times. In general, tenants don’t need to go into the nitty-gritty, but they are obligated to do the bare minimum.
#1 Throwing Out the Trash
Your tenants need to know that they should take out the trash. Remind your tenants that they should never leave trash lying around, as this can attract pests and other problems that you don’t want on your property. Provide them with trash bins and remind them to close the lid properly every time. If your rental property is in a neighborhood with a homeowners association (HOA), be sure to follow the waste segregation rules and regulations, if any.
#2 Repairing Damage Due to Negligence
If the rental property gets damaged due to the tenant’s negligence (or due to their guest’s negligence), they should be held liable. For example, if your tenant punches a hole in the wall, they can’t expect you to pay for repairs. Make sure to conduct routine inspections and keep an accurate record of the property’s condition. That way, your tenant can’t claim that the damage was already there from day one.
Pro Tip: Typically, you would deduct the cost to repair the property from the tenant’s security deposit. However, if the tenant wants to repair the property on their own (let’s say they’re DIY-ers), make sure to hire an inspector to check if their work complies with the building code.
#3 Regular Cleaning
Tenants are not responsible for wear and tear, but they are responsible for damage when it’s caused by their negligence to clean the unit. They can’t expect their landlord to clean the unit for them all the time. For example, it’s the tenant’s task to mow the lawn, throw out the trash, and in general, not make a mess. If a tenant fails to do the bare minimum of maintenance, the landlord may be able to evict them.
Besides, the tenant is obligated to return the property to its original state – or in other words, to its condition on the day that they moved in. If they don’t clean the property, you can deduct the cost to clean it from their security deposit.
The landlord has more obligations, but that doesn’t mean that the tenant is free from them, either. In general, the tenant is obligated to do the bare minimum when it comes to maintenance. However, when a problem goes beyond what they’re able to address, they are also obligated to report it to the property owner. If they fail to report these issues, they may be held financially liable.
That’s why it pays to partner with a property management company with its own tenant portal. At Luxury Property Care, for example, our expert property management agents use an app to allow tenants to report issues as they arise. That way, our team can instantly deal with the matter, and it’s also a way for the landlord to stay up-to-date.