Maintenance and Entry Guidelines for Rented Premises
Landlords have a duty to maintain their property and make repairs as soon as possible after they learn of them. Part of that duty also means giving tenants proper notice prior to entering their rental unit.
Landlords maintenance responsibilities must be at a standard that satisfies basic habitability requirements, such as adequate weatherproofing, available heat, water, electricity, and clean, sanitary, and structurally safe premises. Local building or housing authorities set specific standards that must be followed as well, such as a minimum requirement for light, ventilation, electrical wiring, and installation of smoke detectors.
The consequences of not making the necessary repairs can be steep and costly to a landlord. If a tenant requests a necessary repair and the property manager or landlord does not meet their legal responsibility in maintenance, a tenant can legally:
- Withhold the entire rent until the problem is fixed
- Hire someone to make the repair and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent
- Pay less rent
- Call a local building inspector, who can usually order landlords to make repairs
- Move out, even with a remaining lease term
A tenant can also sue the landlord for a partial refund of past rent, discomfort, annoyance, and even emotional distressed caused by substandard conditions. The best policy is to take care of major problems within 24 hours and take care of minor problems within 48 hours. Make sure to always keep tenants informed as to when and how repairs will be made, and the reason for any possible delays.
Most often, you are required to give at least 24 hours advance notice before entering a rental unit to make or assess repairs, or to show the unit to prospective tenants or purchasers. Advance notice is not required in the event of an emergency, such as fire or serious water leak, or when the tenant gives permission.
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