What Are Landlords Really Responsible For?

Sometimes landlords and tenants are confused on what it is they are responsible for in the contract. Is the landlord required to do all the groundskeeping? Does the tenant really have to acquire rental insurance? Throw in the fact that each state will vary in landlord/tenant laws and people are left scratching their heads. While there are variations by each state, there are also some core responsibilities that can help you navigate finding a rental with a fair landlord.

Keeping The Vermin Out

Landlords are required to maintain a liveable space to rent to the public. Pest control companies often have a close relationship with apartment complexes and landowners to come in and take care of roaches, ant infestations, or mice problems.  However, in some states, it does not mean a guaranteed obliteration of pest issues. In New York City, it’s common to see the occasional cockroach in the apartment no matter the routine treatment of the building. It boils down to if the pests are at a level in which it is causing bites in the middle of the night, uncleanliness of a neighboring apartment, and/or the spread of disease.

The Utilities are On You

For the most part, the utilities are the renter’s responsibility. Utilities include; trash pickup, water, electricity, internet, and television subscription service. Lots of rental properties include some utilities, such as water and trash pickup, so that you don’t have to set up service but those are still accounted for in the rent. More and more apartments are starting to find the value in making arrangements with cable companies to offer internet and television but do not expect it to be the norm. Trash pickup is often included but you should always ask. If they offer valet trash service, in which someone picks it up just outside your front door, you can expect that the fees have been added to your rent. Water was once a staple for inclusion in many apartment complexes but a growing number of complexes are now charging fees for water usage.

Repairs Must be Handled by the Landlord

Repairs are an important part of the tenant/landlord relationship and the tenant is not responsible for repairs. How it is handled depends on which state you live in. There are states that allow for the tenant to withhold rent to pay for repairs by a professional or to withhold until the landlord makes the repairs. Those states are:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Whether you live in a state that permits rent money to be withheld or you live in a state that doesn’t, document everything and seek legal advice on how best to proceed to make your home more liveable.

Property maintenance, repairs, theft, liability, all of these issues can seem very confusing, what truly helps is having a lease that is very clear on the responsibilities of the landlord and tenant. Apartment complexes tend to do an excellent job on those issues while private home rentals may function off a generic state-approved agreement that was downloaded online. Whenever you are about to sign a lease, read every line! Even if the landlord is explaining it to you, read it and ask questions. If it doesn’t feel quite right, ask that you take the lease to a lawyer and get clarification before signing it. When you do your first walk-through, take pictures of every room and study it prior to signing anything regarding the walk-through (apartments do this often). Lastly, when you move out make sure you check the lease for your requirements and take pics of every room. This protects you from disputes!


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