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Which Repairs Are The Tenant’s Responsibility?


If you think that renting out real estate properties will be a painless way to make money in your sleep, you will be sorely disappointed.  Your rental properties may or may not be a source of stress while tenants are living there, but they will definitely stress you out every day that they are unoccupied.  It is in your best interest as a landlord if the same tenant remains in the same rental unit year after year.  The longer your tenants stay, the less often you must go through the time-consuming process of advertising the property and screening prospective tenants.  In other words, happy tenant, happy landlord.  Maintenance of rental properties can be a point of contention, even between landlords and tenants who generally have a harmonious relationship.  Clearly worded lease agreements can help prevent these kinds of disputes.  For help preventing or resolving disputes with your tenants over repairs and maintenance, contact a Washington DC real estate lawyer.

Landlords Are Not Obligated to Give a Rental Property Curb Appeal for a Tenant’s Benefit

In general, repairs to rental properties are the landlord’s right and the landlord’s responsibility.  Tenants should not attempt to make major changes to the property, such as changing the appliances or changing the location of a wall between rooms, without the landlord’s consent.  Likewise, the landlord is responsible for repairing or replacing non-functioning or faulty aspects of the property.  For example, landlords must repair leaks, fix broken windows, and replace broken appliances at their own expense.

Some aspects of maintaining the property are the tenant’s prerogative, however.  Consider that lease agreements do not tend to include provisions where the landlord pays for cleaning or lawn maintenance services.  Maintenance of outdoor spaces is usually the tenant’s responsibility, for example.  Likewise, tenants are responsible for repairing any damage that they cause.

Landlords have a legal responsibility to make a property livable, but they are under no obligation to improve its curb appeal or make its interiors look Instagrammable.  Cosmetic repairs, such as replacing a cracked floor tile or repainting a wall where the paint looks scuffed or dingy, are not a priority, although they can cause resentment between landlords and tenants.

What to Do in the Event of a Dispute With a Tenant Over Repairs to a Rented Property

It is not always clear whether the cause of a need for repair is the tenant’s carelessness or the landlord’s failure to have the property inspected or maintained.  Therefore, your lease agreements should include detailed lists of which repairs are the landlord’s responsibility and which are the tenant’s.  The agreement should also include dispute resolution procedures, such as having a contractor with no pre-existing relationship to either party determine the origin of the damage, or going to mediation to resolve the dispute.

Contact Us for Help

A real estate attorney can help you be proactive in addressing disputes with tenants about repairs to your rental properties.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing for help.



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