When you rent an apartment, many of the maintenance cares are the responsibility of the property owner. When you own a home, all maintenance is your responsibility. But who is the responsible party for home maintenance when you're renting a house? Here's what you should know.
It's Still a Rental, With All That Implies
Just because it's a house doesn't mean it doesn't fall under applicable landlord-tenant laws and regulations. That means you also have tenant rights. These laws and regulations can vary from place to place, but there's one thing that's almost always set in stone. That's the implied warranty of habitability.
Implied Warranty of Habitability
The implied warranty of habitability is the understanding that a property owner must keep a property habitable or "fit for human occupation." Of course, defining what's considered "habitable" can vary.
In most cases, courts interpret "habitability" as complying with local, state, and national building and housing codes. Violations of these codes can range from a penalty to a criminal offense.
In general, "habitability" means the landlord must, at the very least, make sure the house has what it needs so human beings can live in it. This can include any number of things.
- A solid structure
- Heating and cooling capabilities
- Weatherproofing of some sort
- Clean water
These things alone represent a lot of different types of necessary maintenance. And that maintenance falls squarely on the property owner to deal with in a timely fashion.
Things That Aren't So Cut and Dry
What happens when you are the cause of something breaking? If the thing that's broken is something necessary to living in the home, does the property owner have to pay for your negligence? Usually, it's on you to repair something if you're the cause of it breaking.
What about things like lawn care, gutters, and pests? If you can make a case for one thing or another affecting habitability, then there's a good chance the property owner can take care of it. However, your lease agreement will come into play as well.
For example, the lease may require you to salt the sidewalks in winter or clean the gutters twice a year. In such cases, it's on you to do those things. In other cases, you may have to work with the property owner to figure it all out.
You Shouldn't Always Lean on the Property Owner
Even though there are many things a property owner must do as far as maintenance goes, you should also do your part. Usually, you can get things done far faster than the property owner. Don't wait on the property owner to have something fixed if it's important.
It's fine to initiate the fix yourself and then inform the property owner. The property owner may pay you back or shave the cost from your rent. In addition, getting things done yourself creates goodwill between you and the property owner. Even though it's a real estate rental, it's still your home. Take good care of it.