Q. What makes a rental property habitable?
A. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to make and keep your rental property unit habitable for your tenants. This includes effective weather protection such as waterproofing of the roofs, making doors and windows in good condition. You also need to take care of other essentials, such as electricity, gas facilities, heating facilities, plumbing fixtures, making sure there’s hot and cold running water, and access to functioning sewage disposal system.
Floors, stairs and railings should be in good condition and well-maintained, there should be good natural lighting in the rental property unit, and there is enough security and safety features such as working deadbolts for doors and locking windows.
Q. As a landlord, am I obliged to make repairs in a rental unit?
A. Yes, the law requires you to make your rental property units, along with its common areas, to be in a “habitable” condition. Unless your tenants caused the damages themselves, you are obliged to do the necessary repairs and maintenance to ensure health, safety, convenience and comfort for your tenants.
Q. What are examples of essential livable condition?
A. Here are the essentials that make a rental property unit “livable”:
Good roofing, walls and windows don’t leak
Working gas and plumbing facilities
Working hot and cold water that connects to sewage disposal system
Working heating system
Working and in good order of electrical lighting and wiring system
Building and premises kept clean, sanitary and free of garbage, rodents and vermin
Ample number of dumpsters and garbage cans
Floors, railings and stairway in good condition
Landlords must deliver these essentials to keep his or her rental property unit livable during the time of lease.
The state has its own set of standard and rules for maintenance and repair for rental property units. However, just because some of these conditions does not exist doesn’t mean the property is “inhabitable.” The court will have its look if the property is substantially lacking of these essentials.
Q. What can tenants do if their rental property unit is inhabitable?
A. There are many things, but all will require giving notice (in writing) of the problem to the landlord first.
Your tenant basically has five options; move out, ask for the help of local city code enforcement inspectors and health department to and to call for attention to the problem, and conduct and inspection, do the repair and deduct the amount in the next month’s rent, withhold rents, or sue damages.
Q. What is “repair and deduct” and how does it work?
A. To keep the residential property unit habitable, some state laws and standard lease forms, allow tenants to give their landlords a written notice that explains the damage or defect in the property unit.
This notice will include the time for the tenant to do the necessary action (fix the damage). After the required period of time, the landlord may then seek for the service of a professional to do the repair and pay the repairman with his own money. The tenant can then deduct the cost for the repair from the rent. The basic rule of thumb here is that, the amount for “repair and conduct” should not be equal or in excess of one month’s rent.