The Legal Responsibility of Being a Landlord

When you move into an apartment or rental home, you may wonder what legal responsibilities your landlord is responsible for. For example, if you rent an apartment in New York City, you’re one of the occupants of their extensive 3.5 million rental units. While state regulations vary, there are some obligations that every state will impose on landlords. To help you get started, here’s some valuable information about how landlord obligations differ from state to state:

Best and Worst States for Renters

According to Shelter Force, the states where landlord regulations most favor renters include Hawaii, Vermont, and Delaware. In these states, landlords have responsibilities that best protect the renter. As for the worst states for renters, the same source reports that West Virginia, Arkansas, and Georgia offer the least amount of landlord protection. For example, Arkansas has no laws requiring landlords to guarantee habitability, so the condition of an apartment on the move-in day may be a disappointment.

Be Informed about Construction Problems

If you are involved in a rental community as it’s being constructed, you can see if any problems arise. If you take responsibility for an existing building, it’s a good idea for landlords to get information about its construction. For example, a strong and durable foundation is essential to an excellent rental investment. HomeAdvisor says most homeowners may have to spend over $4,500 on repairs to the foundation if they’re not renters.

Ensure Working Plumbing Systems

State laws often have general guidelines about landlord obligations toward plumbing safety. Each municipality may have uniquely different sewage systems, so your local municipality will be the prevailing authority on wastewater disposal. Landlords must keep these regulations in mind if they are part of the construction phase of their rental units. The landlords will be responsible for staying current with changes in the local system and making any necessary changes to comply with new laws.

Report Unsafe Building Materials

According to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, the landlord must notify prospective tenants if an apartment has been painted with lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was a more frequent hazard before 1978 when lead was first prohibited. Tenants who know about this hazard in advance can be alert about peeling paint. Some tenants in these apartments may find a remedy for the effects of lead paint by painting over the old paint with new drywall or wallpaper.

Provide a Watertight Plumbing System

Running water is necessary, and landlords should be responsive to any complaints or repair requests their tenants make. If a leaky faucet or other water fixture is noticed, a call to the landlord should result in quick action. This guideline applies to residential rentals as well as to commercial renters. After all, statistics show that claims related to water damage comprise more than half of commercial real estate claims.

Respect for Tenant Property

There may be times when a landlord must enter their tenant’s home. For example, landlords will need to respond to repair complaints. In addition, landlords must protect their property by making quarterly inspections. Most states require landlords to notify tenants at least 30 to 60 days before entering their rental units.

Keep the Property Well-Maintained

Keeping the property around rental units in good condition will increase its ability to attract future tenants. Part of a landlord’s obligations regarding the property include mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. If a natural disaster damages the home, the landlord must repair the unit according to local safety regulations.

Landlords must be held accountable for the properties’ safety and livability. Although being a landlord may involve personal interactions, it should be treated like a business. When you look at it that way, tenants are the clients of landlords, and everything they do for the buildings becomes an investment in customer service. When landlords respect tenants’ rights, they will ensure a good working relationship for the future.

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