Landlord-tenant relationships are primarily grounded in contract, but it’s not so black and white as the paper it’s on. Through the lease, a tenant receives a legal right to possession of the property in exchange for rent paid to a landlord. Leases convey the rights to property, serving as a binding contract and creating two set of duties between landlords and tenants: duties in relation to property law and duties arising from the contractual promises of the lease. Additionally, many states have legislation in place to protect the rights of residential tenants.
With that in mind, here are some tips to follow to maintain a healthy landlord-tenant relationship while acting according to your duties as a landlord.
Comply with building and housing codes
As a landlord, you’re responsible for maintaining the building in compliance with building, health, and safety codes. While researching state housing legislation is essential, you should also pay attention to your town’s local housing or property maintenance standards.
Local housing codes usually apply to all buildings and apartments within a jurisdiction, including single- and two-family houses. If you have any questions or problems, communication is key. Don’t ever hesitate to call your city hall or municipal building to talk to the building inspector.
Keep the property habitable
Every residential lease agreement comes with an implied guarantee of habitability, which is typically referred to as the warranty of habitability. To ensure that your property falls under the definition of “fit for living in,” check your state’s legislation.
State building code legislation often lists qualifications that a building needs to meet in order to be considered habitable. For instance, the Illinois Supreme Court requires an apartment that’s “fit for living in” to be safe and sanitary with no substantial cosmetic defects.
Keep all facilities in good working order
The warranty of habitability has been held by several state courts to include keeping basic elements of the property in good condition. In other words, you should be taking care of physical elements, including the roof, windows, walls, heaters, water, electricity, and gas.
In addition, apartments should be pest-free and common areas should be clean. You should also provide security against crime, such as locks on doors and windows, to deter break-ins.
Provide functioning smoke detectors
Most states have passed housing legislation that requires landlords to provide tenants with functioning smoke detectors in both commercial and residential buildings. Some are more strict than others when it comes to supplying smoke detectors. Cities and municipalities, however, also have the ability to enact strict requirements of their own.
While it’s your responsibility to supply your tenants with functioning smoke detectors, it’s their responsibility to notify you if the smoke detector is defective. Generally, you should set a date every six months to test smoke alarms around your property. This will ensure that they’re in good working order in the case that your tenant does not notify you.
Make sure tenants follow their responsibilities
Tenants are responsible for paying rent on time and in full as well as acting according to the terms in the lease or rental agreement. A tenant background check is ideal for making sure you’re only accepting rental applications sent in by responsible tenants. Because leases typically have a list of responsibilities that tenants are required to follow, you should regularly check to make sure your tenants are following its terms.
Basic responsibilities that your tenant should follow include using the property for legal purposes, disposing of garbage hygienically, keeping the property clean, notifying you of damage, and parking in designated areas.
In order to maintain a healthy landlord-tenant relationship and avoid potential disputes or legal trouble, it’s paramount to keep your property habitable and in good condition. If you’re unsure about your state’s housing legislation or local housing code, use the online tools at your fingertips to ensure you’re doing right by your tenants and the law.