What are the Legal Obligations of a Landlord?

The landlord-tenant relationship has been much maligned and not just by television and movies! However, the reality is that it is a symbiotic relationship that can be beneficial for both parties, if done right. In fact, statistics reveal that millennials believe that renting is a better option because it frees them of the hassle of being responsible for the property.

According to the American Community Survey by the US Census Bureau, the number of renters in the United States increased by a whopping 23 million in the decade 2006-2016, while the number of homeowners rose by just 700,000. So, while it might be a great time to become a landlord, you also need to know what legal responsibilities fall on your shoulders.

Responsibilities of a Landlord

It is crucial to understand that if you do not abide by the responsibilities and obligations of a landlord, it could result in criminal charges against you. Here are a few general services that should be provided by every landlord.

1. Keeping the Security Deposit Safe

The first legal duty of a landlord is to take care of the tenant’s security deposit. This deposit is usually charged before renting out the property, but the money does not belong to the landlord. It is taken in case the tenant fails to pay the rent or damages the property. The maximum deposit amount that can be charged depends on the location of the property. However, a few states, like Texas and Illinois, set no limits on the amount, while many other states set the maximum limit at rent for up to three months.

2. Ensuring Electrical & Fire Safety of the Property

A few basic safety measures must be taken care of by the landlord to ensure that the electrical fixtures are safe to handle, while fire and smoke alarms are installed and functional. If the property is furnished, all furniture must have the legal fire safety label on them. There should be regular supply of fresh water to protect your tenants against water-borne diseases. Lastly, make sure you provide gas safety certificates for all the gas appliances.

3. Disclosing Accurate Information to Tenants

Every tenant has the right to know about the property and its owner. It is the duty of the landlord to disclose the information to them. The tenant must be informed about the name and the address of the person who is in charge of the property and will make repairs or hear out grievances and so on. This information must be provided in writing before the tenancy period begins. If there is any change, the tenant must be informed about it.

4. Taking Care of Repair & Maintenance

The landlord is solely responsible for the interior and exterior repair and maintenance of the property. Drains, baths, roofs, walls, sinks, pipes, water installations should be kept in good condition by the landlord. They should also ensure that the water, gas and electricity supply are in proper working order. In each case, a notice of repair must be sent out to the landlord. However, in some cases, such as damage due to fire or flood, the landlord is not responsible for reconstructing the property.

5. Fixing the Property Before Renting it Out Again

As a landlord, you need to make sure that the property is fit for human residence before renting it out. The building should have enough natural light and ventilation, must have a stable layout, ample supply of water, must be free from damp and insects, be well equipped with drainage and sanitary facilities, and have proper disposal methods for waste and so on.

6. Give Possession on the Move-In Date

The landlord should be able to give possession of the property to the tenant on the move-in date mentioned in the lease agreement. If the space is not available on the particular date, the tenant has the right to take legal action against the landlord. However, if any individual who does not have legal right of possession wants to barge in, the landlord can take action against him.

If all this sounds too cumbersome, there is a simple solution that can ease your burden as a landlord. Hiring a property manager will not only ensure that your property is well taken care of, you will also be free of the responsibility of collecting the rent each month, answering all sorts of questions and complaints and even evict the tenant, if need be.