A Landlord’s Duty To Keep Premises Fit And Habitable

By on January 25, 2018

It is reasonable to expect landlords to keep their rental properties in a habitable condition that is fit for the average person to live in.

Those who disagree are probably as close to a sadist as you will find.

And the law agree with it too. It is well accepted now that landlords have an obligation to deliver these expectations due to various state laws that have been written and court decisions that have been made.

These landlord obligations are now known as implied warranty of habitability (IWOH).

Building codes

It goes without saying that the landlord is responsible to keep the property compliant with applicable building codes, especially those affecting health and safety of tenants.

Let’s put it this way.

If government agencies have spent millions of dollars to determine that a rule should be included in a building code for the safety of inhabitants living in a house, you can bet that they would be beyond unhappy to find that these rules are not implemented… which jeopardizes the safety of tenants.

You can also bet that if tenants are well-informed about a landlord’s responsibilities regarding building codes, they would demand them to be delivered. And you cannot fault them for doing so.

Repairs

All forms of repairs have to be made in a timely manner when it concerns upkeeping a fit and habitable environment.

It might not be your responsibility to provide optic-cable internet connection, or fix up Christmas decoration lights during the holiday season.

But lighting for example, has to be fixed when they go out.

Cleanliness

It is not your job to pack up the house and fold up the tenants’ done laundry like a maid.

But the general cleanliness of the place is part of your responsibility. You won’t want your rental property to become a slump too.

Pay special attention to common areas.

This is why landlords these days like to offer additional services like housekeeping to tenants. They get to ensure that the property is properly taken care of. And get to make a nice side income as well.

Maintain facilities in good working order

There are some key items in a house that is essential for comfortable living. Note that the word comfortable is used instead of luxurious.

These include:

  • plumbing
  • electricity
  • heating and cooling
  • ventilation
  • sanitary

Not only should these fixtures be in working order, they should be safe to use as well.

Whenever one of these things break down, do get them fixed and rectified as soon as possible.

The longer you delay, the more tenants will suffer and be inconvenienced.

Waste removal

Waste removal are often done by contractors and private companies hired by either the local authorities or private home owners associations.

So you need to ensure that the fees for these services are paid.

Even then, do update tenants on schedules and the proper way to dispose rubbish and waste so that removal services can do their jobs more efficiently.

Running and hot water

If there is no running water in a house, it is fair to say that the house is not in a condition fit to live in.

This is why whenever the running water is affected in a house, a landlord must make it a top priority to get the problem fixed.

And because of how cold the temperature can get during winter, it is also important to provide adequate hot water at all times.

Bathing in cold water in winter is just torturous.

Heating and air-conditioning

This depends a lot on the climate of the geographical location your rental property is located.

In tropical climate for example, the weather can be sunny and warm throughout the year. Making it unnecessary to install heating systems in the house.

Otherwise, most if not all houses located in areas that goes through the 4 seasons will require heating for the colder months.

When unsure, check with the local authorities whether there is a legal requirement to provide heating and/or cooling systems.

Anything else?

Unlike decades ago, the modern tenant has a lot of leverage over landlords. They cannot be bullied and can even bite back when pushed.

If for example, as a landlord, you do not keep essential services in good order, a tenant has the right to terminate the tenancy and even recover damages by taking the landlord to court.

Good luck explaining yourself before a judge.

Every state has adopted the implied warranty of habitability in one form or another. And even if there are states that have not, it is because they already have other legislation in place that overlaps or covers key areas already in the IWOH.

However, there is some respite for landlords.

If the failure to deliver fit premises is due to the fault of tenants, then the tenants will bear responsibility for repairs.

Finally, the duty as a landlord to provide fit and habitable premises is not something to play around with.

Authorities overseeing this area mean business. And tenants who are suffering from your inaction will have an axe to grind.

If you are unclear about your responsibilities as a landlord, do make a check with the local authorities to learn more about them.



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