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What is a landlord responsible for?

As a tenant, know where your responsibilities end and the landlord’s begin
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Your landlord’s responsibilities include, broadly, providing you with a rental unit in habitable condition that complies with all applicable local laws, and maintaining and repairing the unit to keep it in that condition.

As a tenant, your responsibilities include maintaining the unit in the condition in which you received it and paying for repairs for any damage that you cause.

Maintenance

Typically, you as the tenant are asked to take care of minor repairs or maintenance like general cleaning, plunging toilets, replacing light bulbs, and oiling door and cabinet hinges. The landlord is responsible for larger maintenance tasks, like replacing the roof or fixing plumbing leaks.

Repairs

Most repairs are the landlord’s responsibility to fix, including windows and doors, appliances that are included with the rental unit, electrical wiring, plumbing, and heating/cooling systems. However, you are financially liable for repairs to damage caused by you or visitors to your unit.

The landlord must arrange for major repairs to be completed promptly, such as fixing or replacing a fridge, stove, or heater/air conditioner (during the season that those units are needed to maintain temperatures). Consult your local and state landlord-tenant laws for specific deadlines and other rules on repairs.

Pests and infestations

Tenants are responsible for controlling any pests or infestations—such as rats, mice, cockroaches, or bedbugs—they create or attract, such as through improper storage of food or waste. Landlords are responsible for pests or infestations not caused by the tenant, or which are due to pre-existing conditions in the unit.

Additionally, some states, such as New Hampshire, have specific sections in landlord-tenant law dealing with bedbugs.

Mold, termites, and other building conditions

Mold is a common concern for tenants. The building code in many jurisdictions requires new construction to have sufficient ventilation, often including a window that can be opened and/or a fan in each bathroom. Because mold can be a health hazard, the landlord is responsible for controlling it to the extent that the mold is not caused by the tenants.

Similarly, the landlord is responsible for fixing leaks, significant drafts, and other weatherproofing issues to maintain the unit in habitable condition.

Heating/cooling

Many state or local landlord-tenant laws stipulate that the landlord is responsible for providing working heating systems to rental units. In particularly hot areas, such as the state of Arizona, the landlord may be required to provide an air conditioning or cooling system as well.

If the tenants do not have control over heating/cooling, as in an apartment building with central heating and cooling systems, the landlord is typically responsible for maintaining certain minimum or maximum temperatures during applicable seasons.

Permitting "quiet enjoyment"

The landlord must not interfere with your "quiet enjoyment" of the premises. Inspections must be scheduled 24-48 hours in advance, depending on local law. Repairs or maintenance should not take place during quiet hours or substantially affect your customary use of your home, unless necessary to complete the work.

Landlords cannot shut off utilities, except for conducting repairs, or lock you out of your unit. Landlords cannot remove your property from your unit unless you have lost an eviction hearing or trial case and law enforcement has already formally evicted you.

You are responsible for not disturbing other tenants by maintaining reasonable and legal noise levels, following the rules of the building, and complying with the law.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Many jurisdictions require landlords to install smoke detectors, and some also require carbon monoxide detectors. The landlord is responsible for providing the detectors, and you are responsible for changing the batteries in the detectors to maintain their function.

Garbage and other waste

In apartment buildings, the landlord is generally responsible for providing adequate garbage disposal service, as well as recycling and/or yard waste service where required by local law. You are responsible for using the bins or dumpsters provided and not allowing garbage to pile up in or around your residence.

In single-family homes, you may be responsible for signing up for garbage pick-up and paying for it directly. The landlord should inform you whether you or the landlord handles garbage service.

Hazardous materials

Lead and asbestos are common concerns in older buildings. Lead paint is a recognized health hazard, especially for children, and asbestos in walls and floors can also lead to long-term health problems if fibers can become airborne.

Federal law requires landlords to warn tenants of the presence of lead paint, and many state laws require landlords to take action to remove it. Under federal law, asbestos must be contained or removed if it poses a health hazard, but no prior disclosure is required.

Security deposit

The landlord must retain your security deposit until you move out. Although laws differ among jurisdictions, the landlord may be required to tell you what bank the deposit money is kept in, or even give you any interest the landlord earns on the security deposit.

10-60 days after you move out, the landlord must return the security deposit money to you, or provide a reason for retaining part or all of the money. If you move out without paying last month’s rent, or if you break your lease early, the landlord may keep your security deposit.

The landlord cannot keep your security deposit to cover the costs of normal wear and tear, or without a reason. Normal wear and tear includes minor scuffs or stains on walls and floors or incidental damage to appliances, such as scratches or dents.

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