When deciding to manage your rental property as a Landlord, ask yourself – what do I have to do? What are my responsibilities, liabilities, and what can I leave well alone?
There is no denying that it can be a real pain for tenants and landlords alike when arguments about who is responsible for what. It is almost inevitable that, sooner or later, during a tenancy agreement, there will be some dispute either about the property or failure to comply with the tenancy requirements. Hence, it is in the interests of everybody to do something about that.
In this property blog, we will look at :
- Disputes with examples
- Property Care
By getting to grips with the extent of your duties, you can stop these disputes from happening in the first place and have everything crystal clear before the tenants even move in. Again, it is in the best interests of everybody to do this.
What Causes Disputes?
Landlord-tenant disputes typically arise from either a lack of knowledge of requirements and who is responsible for what or a blatant disregard for upholding their end of the deal, i.e., the legal requirements about the tenancy agreement.
Neither is excusable. Both parties, i.e., tenant and landlord, need to understand and agree to their side of the bargain. For example, the tenant agrees to pay the weekly rent on time. The landlord agrees to ensure the property is of equal or better quality than at the signing of the tenancy agreement.
Tenants want a liveable property, and landlords want the rental income. Therefore it is a synergistic relationship with both parties motivated to uphold their side of the tenancy agreement.
Tenancy disputes may also occur when one of the parties deliberately flouts rules or obligations. Sadly, this is pretty common for many reasons.
The landlord knows the spouting is leaking, and ice is forming on the courtyard, but he puts off fixing it to avoid the expense. The landlord knows the work needs to be done but is delaying it until funds come in or it’s closer to the end of the financial year, and he may be due a tax refund, which can be used to fix the spouting.
Another example is – the tenant knows not to smoke inside, but it’s winter too cold and wet to smoke outside, so he smokes inside and hopes he doesn’t get found out. It may work for a while; however, it could become an issue when it comes time to renew the tenancy.
Tenants and landlords should prepare well so they can meet their requirements.
The tenant invests in a warm, waterproof coat for smoke breaks outside.
The landlord knowing maintenance can not be put off until it suits his needs, must make sure he has funds to maintenance whatever it may be. In this example, the landlord using gritting salt to de-ice the courtyard doesn’t stop the ice forming from the water dripping from the broken spouting. The tenant knows this, so the resolution is to fix the spouting.
Disputes often arise from either party not wanting to incur extra costs; bitterness and resentment can raise their ugly head when money is involved. And this is even more so when the costs involved are significantly more. For example, if the washing machine breaks down, who is responsible for getting it fixed or replaced? Unless the washing machine is listed as a chattel supplied for use by the tenant in the tenancy agreement, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to get it fixed.
So, what are your primary responsibilities as a landlord? Top of the list is the provision of a dwelling or home that is fit for use. Laws of your local jurisdiction will also influence what this involves. For example, your property will need to be insulated, dry, and have a working heating source. Doors that lock and maybe windows that have safety anti-theft latches too.
Tenants usually agree to some elements of property care if they’re required including:
- housekeeping to prevent deterioration of fixtures and fittings
- lawn mowing and garden care
- security-mindedness, lock doors, close windows
Wear and Tear
General wear and tear is allowed and accounted for in tenancy agreements. There is an acceptable amount of wear and tear due to the widespread use of the property and its fittings and fixture. If the property is fully-furnished and comes with appliances and other household items, these too will be mentioned in the tenancy lease and covered by the wear and tear clause.
Warranty of Habitability
A warranty of habitability confirms the property is fit to live in. But what does that cover? As mentioned, some things are the tenant’s responsibility, but a landlord needs to provide a habitable property before the tenant moves in.
A landlord must comply with local health and building codes. There certainly cannot be anything about the property that would endanger health. As well as this, the property must be weather protected. Damage that can occur under external conditions is always the landlord’s responsibility. For example, it is never the responsibility of a tenant to fix a leaky roof or a broken window.
Naturally, a tenant will pay for the heating, water, and electricity, either as part of the rent or through bills.
Nevertheless, the quality of the infrastructure (radiators, boilers, etc.) that provide these utilities is the landlord’s responsibility, and the landlord must also handle any necessary repairs.
Crime and Safety
The actions of criminals are not the responsibility of either the landlord or the tenant, but their effects on the property are the landlord’s responsibility. Typically, this involves providing sturdy locks and installing lights in dark areas around the building.
However, negligence in these areas that ultimately lead to a criminal incursion could see the landlord having to face the consequences. It is also essential that a landlord ensures the tenants themselves are not criminals. This is why you should always perform a criminal record or background check on potential tenants.
Setting out the specific responsibilities to maintaining a property can be something of a challenging task. Indeed, the property should be liveable when tenants move in, but natural wear and tear after that is a more complicated matter.
Generally speaking, cosmetic issues that do not endanger health and safety – for example, replacing a worn carpet – are not necessarily anyone’s responsibility. However, if a property becomes run down on account of these issues, it is likely to be treated with less respect by tenants and deteriorate even further – and faster. Therefore, it is in your interest to do something about these issues as a landlord.
Repairs are another matter, and failing to deal with issues that make the property uninhabitable through no tenant’s fault could give them the right to withhold rent or seek legal redress. Again, the best course of action is to research local laws thoroughly and ensure tenant and landlord are on the same page right at the beginning of the lease.
In conclusion, knowing what you have to do and what you don’t is a complicated business for being a landlord. Therefore, it is vital to gather the requisite knowledge ahead of time and share it with the tenant in detail.