10 Landlord Responsibilities You May Have Overlooked

Posted on Mar 2 2015 - 12:16pm by Housecall

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on March 2, 2015. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.

This post was contributed by Terri Engels

rental agreementIf you own real estate and decide to lease it out to someone else, then congratulations: you are now a landlord in the eyes of the law. Whether you lease out a single family home or apartments in a multiplex building, there are many landlord responsibilities that come with the territory.

Some duties seem clear, like collecting rent or finding tenants for a vacant unit. Others, however, may be less obvious. The more you learn, the more success you will have with your real estate investments. Let’s examine 10 landlord responsibilities you may have overlooked.

1. Knowing the Landlord-Tenant Laws for Your Jurisdiction

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It’s your responsibility as a landlord to know and understand all tenant-landlord regulations for your city and state. Landlords can be (and often are) sued for not obeying their state’s laws, even if they weren’t aware they existed.

2. Preparing a Legal Lease Document

The lease agreement and any other legal paperwork is all part of a landlord’s duties. It’s your responsibility to ensure the rental contract is legally written and abides by all laws. Leasing periods, monthly rental rates and tenant names must be clearly indicated. In some jurisdictions, legal disclosures, such as security deposit details, must be included. The lease should also contain all appropriate clauses, such as advising tenants to purchase renters’ insurance. Many states have required language that must be included, such as the Megan’s Law clause in California lease agreements.

3. The Duty to Deliver Possession

Once a lease contract is signed, it is the landlord’s responsibility to deliver possession of the rental unit to the tenant on the agreed-upon date. The unit must be in move-in condition and any previous tenants must have vacated the premises.

4. Implied Warranty of Habitability

Another obligation is to make sure the rental unit is in a safe, habitable condition. The property must not have any serious deficiencies, and any supplied appliances, fixtures, plumbing and heating must be in good working order. The property must be free of insects and pests. Landlords are generally responsible for getting infestations under control, even if they occur after tenants have moved in, although in most states landlords can avoid this by specifying in the rental agreement that pest control is the renter’s responsibility.

5. Respect the Tenant’s Right to Quiet Enjoyment

According to most landlord-tenant acts, tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment – meaning to have the benefit of living in their home without being disturbed. Once a tenant has possession of a property, the landlord may not interfere with this right. It’s therefore the landlord’s responsibility to ensure he or she does not enter the rental unit without proper notice (usually 24 – 48 hours, except in emergencies). When a landlord enters the rental property, it must be at a reasonable time of day and for a valid reason.

6. Completing Repairs in a Reasonable Time Frame

Tenants have the responsibility of reporting any repairs that need to be done. Landlords’ responsibilities include responding to these reports and completing repairs in a timely manner. Urgent repairs should be done right away, while minor issues can be addressed more conveniently. But beware that unrepaired damage tends to cause more damage, and tends to encourage tenants to vacate the rental property.

7. Providing Safety Measures

It is your duty to protect your tenants, to a point. In some jurisdictions, landlords must provide specific safety measures. These may include fire and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, front door peepholes, deadbolt locks on exterior doors and window locks.

8. Reporting Crime

If a landlord becomes aware of any criminal activity taking place in one of their rental units, they must report it to authorities. For example, some landlord-tenant acts have specific laws that can find a landlord liable if their property is used for dealing or creating drugs.

9. On-Site Property Management

In some states, the law requires on-site property management of multiplex buildings of a certain size. In California, for example, landlords must provide on-site management of all residential rental buildings of 16 units or larger.

10. Responsible for Property Manager’s Acts

An often-overlooked concern is that you can be liable for your property manager’s acts, including illegal ones. If a property manager does not follow local landlord-tenant laws and a rental application is refused based on their religion or race, for example, the landlord can also be held responsible. Stay up-to-date on your rental property’s operations and keep a watchful eye on anyone who works for you.

Being a landlord involves a steep learning curve when starting out, and the laws aren’t always simple. Taking the time to learn about your responsibilities as a landlord can mean the difference between earning a nice profit and losing money – or worse. Protect yourself by learning the laws that apply to you and surrounding yourself with a team of professionals.

Do you know of any landlord responsibilities that many new landlords overlook? Which obligation surprised you when you first became a landlord? Share your comments below!

24 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Jack Mangra March 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm -

    Very helpful, interesting and timely. Its a winner’s package.

  2. Drew May 6, 2015 at 11:46 am -

    I wasn’t aware of all of these responsibilities. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Karen August 3, 2015 at 9:23 am -

    Many landlords have left equipment (lawn mower, washer/dryer, etc.) for the tenant to use during their rental stay. This makes the landlord responsible and legally for the upkeep and any harm the tenant creates. I have always sold these items to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy and then bought back at a higher price if still in good running condition, making it worth it to the tenant to take good care of it, and I don’t have to replace as often.

  4. Karen August 3, 2015 at 9:29 am -

    One more….. If you have just painted and new flooring….. Just like brand new 🙂 . Don’t put yourself in a corner by advertising pets okay. With everything new it could be a perfect place for someone that is allergic to pets. Let people call and ask if pets are okay – they will still call as long as it doesn’t say no pets, even then sometimes they call!

  5. Steve August 20, 2015 at 8:08 am -

    good information thanks for sharing

  6. Lisa April 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm -

    There is mold that has started on my bathroom ceiling. I was told that I am responsible for it. He said spray bleach with water. My fire alarm was good until 2011,. Does not include carbon monoxide tester He said I need to get one, and also a fire extinguisher. Frustrated. I am not sure where to go with this.

    • Watson October 24, 2019 at 5:05 pm -

      Have you notified the owner in writing?

  7. Advantage Realty Services May 5, 2017 at 9:23 am -

    Awesome article. I hope a lot of property managers can read this article. Proper preventive maintenance should also be considered to minimize future repair cost. Sometimes this has also been overlooked.

  8. Mannu Jain August 27, 2019 at 4:40 am -

    Great insight. However, i would like to add a point here that it is true that being a landlord, you are responsible for providing warranty of habitability. And it includes keeping your rental unit free from molds, pests and any kind of infestation.

    But what if the mold, or the infestation is a result of poor sanitation habits of your tenant? Whether in that case are you going to pay the expenses from your pocket? Never fall for this mistake. Stop yourself from getting robbed by your tenant. It is very important to understand when actually you are responsible for paying for repairs.

  9. Cathy Peeples September 8, 2019 at 9:54 am -

    Is the landlord responsible to provide shelter to tenants once house catches fire for faulty wiring

    • Watson October 24, 2019 at 5:09 pm -

      Depends on your local laws and/or what your lease says it there are no laws. I wonder if renter’s insurance covers this. Always a good idea for tenants to have insurance.

    • HALINA KRASZEWSKI October 24, 2019 at 6:00 pm -

      It all depends on the lease. If it was included in the original lease than the owner is responsible to provide substitute housing. Most of the leases will have some type of a clause built-in to address the issue in order to avoid any future misunderstandings.

  10. Ann Buchanan October 24, 2019 at 6:33 pm -

    This is pertinent information for me, as my husband and I just bought rental property.
    Ann Buchanan
    RE/MAX Elite-Hendersonville, Tn

  11. Justino Ortiz October 25, 2019 at 10:58 am -

    Very good article. I own a two family home and I rent one apt. What i do before I rent i make a full inspection to make sure is in perfect condition to rent and i specifies on my lease contract the apartment condition and what I expecting to have when tenants move. If they make any damages they are responsible to fix or i take out from the deposit.
    Is very important to disclose all this on the lease contract to be on the safe side.
    Thank helpful article

  12. Micheline November 15, 2019 at 8:29 am -

    I agree with you Mannu on the first part you stated.

    But what when a tenant is a very clean person, yes, with very good sanitation habits, and as a result there is molds in the bathroom, and infestation of ants?

    Mannu, this goes both ways, there are bad tenants as well as bad landlords. But what when the landlord refuse to take his responsibilities, expects the tenant to pay these expenses from his/her pocket? Also, but what when the landlord threat the tenant to leave the unit if he/she is not happy with his (landlord) decision?

    It is very important to understand your right as a tenant, and that you are not responsible for these repairs, Stop yourself from being taking advantages of, getting robbed from and being threat by your landlord. Never fall for any of this at any time.

  13. vidmate iPad for free December 11, 2019 at 2:24 am -

    NIce share. Very informative article. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Sasha Anderson December 31, 2019 at 6:42 am -

    Good article- I am in a situation that is difficult- Way too much to address here. The apt truly is not habitable, and I have communicated with the landlord with no resolution. We moved here for school for my daughter, and because of a stalking situation, cannot currently afford to move.The landlord moved drug dealers into the complex 6 months ago, knowing full well that they dealt drugs(come to find out). They took an immediate hatred towards my family, and terrorize us every day – have notified landlord and police to NO avail. I cannot even say retaliation, because I don’t know these”people” and their 1000 closest”friends”. If I notify the landlord, he calls them immediately, and all he’ll breaks loose against my family. There are no available local places to move, and my daughter has to finish school. ?????

  15. Margaret Hickman February 22, 2020 at 3:03 pm -

    The primary issue I see in my market is lack of knowledge of Fair Housing Laws and Americans With Disabilities Act. Classes are usually offered every year by the City of Alexandria (Louisiana). The landlord owning/managing small quantities of properties either are not going or not retaining what they are taught. I see advertising violations constantly, primarily involving the pet policy. If someone ever tests them, massive fines are possible.

  16. Gloria February 22, 2020 at 9:23 pm -

    In NY State – landlords of 1-4 unit buildings need to provide a certificate of occupancy. Some exceptions but a big step in providing affordable housing that is also safe.

  17. SDL Pool February 23, 2020 at 11:25 pm -

    I didn’t know about 5 and my landlord would constantly come into my house while I was at work and my girlfriend was at home. Once I found out about this I told him that if he wanted to come over he had to call me and I had to be there. We moved out the next month because he tried it again when I dropped my car off at the shop to be worked on and ubered home and I was standing in the kitchen when he came in unannounced.

  18. Scott February 27, 2020 at 5:18 pm -

    I have owned multi unit properties for years—-one thing all tenants need to consider—Landlord is responsible for

    Landlord/Owner “is to make sure the rental unit is in a safe, habitable condition. The property must not have any serious deficiencies, and any supplied appliances, fixtures, plumbing and heating must be in good working order.”

    Does it say anything about Air Conditioning? NO, it does not. Heat only and habitable. Appliances supplied, plumbing—but WE are not responsible for A/C.

    Makes you think—-I may change my leases. I have known this for years, but tired of tenants not changing the damn filters. I am putting this in my lease—to inform. If AC breaks, they fix it. In Winter, I will fix heat.

  19. roofing contractor in alabama July 2, 2020 at 8:14 am -

    very interesting and helpful article.

  20. jack September 16, 2020 at 2:16 pm -

    All true & important…but your local housing laws may conflict with your lease terms, no matter what the tenants agree to.
    There are different rules about Escrow or even “suitability” .
    Right now, it can take more than 12 months to evict a tenant for any reason in Philadelphia.