The relationship between tenants and their landlords varies across the board. There are instances where each of these parties gets along swimmingly and other cases in which their relationship might be soured by misunderstanding. For a tenant and a landlord to get along, it is imperative for them to understand each other. Unfortunately, there have been several cases where the amicable relationships between landlords and their tenants have gone south because it is unclear who is responsible for maintenance.
In some cases, tenants believe that the brunt of the maintenance responsibilities should fall squarely on the shoulders of the landlord, while most landlords feel otherwise. Who exactly is responsible for maintaining the state of things in a property, and who is responsible for taking care of home security upgrades?
The laws that govern what a landlord is responsible for differ from state to state. However, some commonalities carry through no matter where you are. For example, a landlord (property manager, etc.) in charge of renting out a property for other people to live in is responsible for ensuring that the property is fit for habitation and that it is also safe for the tenants who will be moving in.
There are a few basic things landlords have to ensure their properties are equipped with before they can even begin renting them out to people. First, several state and local laws demand that landlords make a property “habitable” for their tenants. This process includes having a functioning electrical system, heating facilities, and a weather protection and waterproofing system.
In addition to the general responsibilities that landlords are tasked with, there are a few security measures that they have to put in place to ensure that their tenants are being kept within a modicum of safety. Here are some of the security responsibilities that landlords have to meet within their respective properties:
- There should be a source of natural lighting within every room of the property through the use of windows, etc. In the instance that there is no central ventilation system in the property, each of the windows needs to be able to open halfway.
- There should be emergency exits that lead tenants safely out of the property in case their lives are put in danger. Suppose there is a storage unit on the property. In that case, landlords should ensure that there is no combustible material stored inside and have fire extinguishers within the property.
- There should be operable deadbolt locks on the main entry doors of the property, and these should be coupled with functioning window locks as well.
- The property should also have functioning smoke detectors to enhance the safety of tenants.
These are the primary security responsibilities that a landlord must follow when renting a property. In some cases, landlords can do more if they feel the need to do so. Similarly, they can reach an agreement with their tenants that stipulates some other responsibility that they are in charge of.
The same laws that govern a landlord’s responsibilities also dictate a tenant’s responsibilities. The tenant’s primary responsibilities are encapsulated in housekeeping. They are responsible for ensuring that all the amenities provided to them are taken care of. Also, anything that the tenant damages (including their friends, visitors, etc.) must be replaced by the tenant.
Some tenants are under the impression that their only obligation is to pay rent. This is a grave misconception that causes many landlord-tenant relationships to crumble. Instead, tenants are tasked with these basic duties to ensure that the property remains habitable:
- Tenants are obligated to keep the rental property safe and clean as the condition of the property permits.
- Tenants must ensure that they are properly using the amenities within their property (electrical, gas, plumbing) to prevent any damage to them.
- Tenants are obligated to notify the landlord of any maintenance issues that may arise promptly instead of continuing to use and further damage defective items. These items could include deadbolt locks, for example.
The responsibility of home security maintenance is evenly split between the tenant and the landlord. However, a landlord is obligated to ensure that basic safety standards are put in place. These include deadbolt locks, suitable emergency exits, and locks on the windows, etc.
The landlord is responsible for the upkeep of these security measures if they become less effective or inoperable due to the wear and tear they experience over time. In some instances, the security measures may not have been working correctly, to begin with. If a tenant brings this to a landlord’s attention, the landlord is obligated to take care of its maintenance.
Tenants are responsible for home security maintenance if they damage something or someone they know hurts something. In addition, some tenants seek to make security additions to their homes to increase the state of their security. For instance, some tenants would like to install home security systems. However, these tenants need to realize that their landlord is not responsible for the maintenance of any of these additions unless the landlord is the one who implemented the changes.
Tenants can always talk with their landlords about adding an extra deadbolt or switching the locks on the windows to more secure ones. A landlord will be obligated to maintain these additions over time but will not be obligated to maintain them if they are damaged due to the tenant’s negligence. It falls on the tenant to notify the landlord if it seems like there is something wrong with an aspect of their home security.
Both landlord and tenant have to ensure they understand what is expected from one another. This makes it a much easier relationship over time. Landlords are responsible for maintenance when it is needed as a result of decay over time. Still, the tenant is responsible for any additional security measures they (the tenant) implement or for any damage caused.
This is a guest post by Ralph Goodman of The Lock Blog.
Ralph Goodman is a local locksmith and an expert writer on all things locks and security at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is an excellent resource for learning about keys, locks, and safety. In addition, they offer tips, advice, and how-tos for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.