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Rental maintenance and repairs

For the most part, rental maintenance is a landlord's job, but tenants must also do their part by reporting problems and keeping the unit in good condition.

Brian John Craig | Jul 15, 2019

Seven Tips for Understanding Landlord-Tenant Law in Logan, Utah

Occupancy Limits Under the Logan Land Development Code, houses in certain zoning districts in Logan are only allowed to accommodate up to three unrelated adults. The Logan City ordinance was put in place to reduce impact from a property to the neighborhood, including parking and noise. Any person can submit a complaint for potential zoning violations. A landlord may receive a notice from the city that there are too many people in the house in violation of the municipal code. After receiving a notice from the city, a landlord may have 10 days to reduce the number of people in the house to three unrelated adults. This can result in a hardship to tenants. Landlords are also required to give notice to the tenant of the occupancy limits for the zone in which the property is located in the Logan Land Development Code. The notice can be in either the written lease or on a zoning occupancy disclosure form. Tenants should demand notice of the occupancy limits from the landlord before signing the lease. Overnight Guests Many lease agreements include a clause restricting overnight guests. Allowing a friend to crash on a couch for an extended period of time could violate the lease agreement and potentially result in eviction and a criminal trespass action. Utah passed a law in 2017, Utah Code section 76-6-206.4, to help homeowners and apartment renters get rid of an invitee (“guest”) who won’t go when asked to leave. The law allows the police to arrest a “long-term guest” as a criminal trespasser. The guest is evicted without a court order and can be convicted of a class B misdemeanor subject to six months in jail. A tenant who “aids and abets” by inviting a guest can also be found guilty as an accessory. With popular online hosting platforms and hospitality services such as Airbnb, CoachSurfing, and VRBO and the common situation of university students hosting overnight guests, landlords can restrict overnight guests with a clause in the lease agreement. Be careful with overnight guests and read the language in the lease. Business Licenses Many students have an entrepreneurial spirit, but these aspiring business owners may unknowingly be violating lease agreements, along with state and local laws. Mark Zuckerberg famously developed the Facebook website in his dorm room while a student at Harvard University. But a lease agreement may include a “Use of Premises” clause that prohibits running a business. In addition, Logan City and other cities in Cache County require a business license for any “business.” The definition of “business” generally includes any enterprise carried on for the purpose of gain or economic profit, including the sale of tangible personal property at retail or wholesale, the manufacture of goods, and the rendering of services to others. Title 5 in the Logan City Code has a very broad definition for “engaging in a business.” The Utah Legislature passed a law in 2017 stating that a city may not charge a license fee for a home-based business (See Utah Code section 10-1-203), but the city can still require a business license for any business venture. Operating a business in Logan City without a business license is a Class B misdemeanor subject to six months in jail. A tenant can face both eviction by the landlord and conviction in a criminal case for running an unlicensed business. A landlord without a business license is also in violation of the Logan City Code. Logan City considers it unlawful for any person to own a rental dwelling within the city without a business license. Repairs and Defects If the landlord does not fix something that needs to be repaired, the tenant has some options under the Utah Fit Premises Act. Under this law, a landlord must provide safe and livable housing. A faulty toilet, a broken furnace, no hot water, a broken staircase, bare electric wires, and dangerous holes in the floor are all examples of things a landlord must fix. The lease might include other items the landlord is responsible for fixing, such as appliances. The tenant should first notify the landlord of anything that needs to be repaired. If the landlord refuses to fix a major problem, the tenant can send a “Notice of Deficient Conditions” to the landlord. The tenant then has two options with the Notice of Deficient Conditions. The tenant can either: (1) withhold rent until the problem is fixed; or (2) pay an outside professional to repair and then deduct the expense from the rent. The tenant also has other options such as calling the local health department or building inspector, suing in Small Claims Court, or terminating the tenancy. But be careful with certain self-help actions, such as withholding rent. Tenants can face eviction if proper steps are not taken. Security Deposits Along with repairs, security deposits are often a point of contention between landlords and tenants. Utah state law allows landlords to charge a nonrefundable deposit, but the landlord must clearly state in writing what part of the tenant’s security deposit is nonrefundable. After the tenant moves out, Utah landlords have 30 days to return the tenant’s security deposit. Withholding the security deposit of the tenant for no reason can attract penalties. The renter may recover $100 in penalties plus court costs as well as the full amount of the security deposit if the landlord wrongfully withholds the security deposit, fails to provide an itemized list of the deductions, or fails to return the security deposit within 30 days. Assignments and Subletting Many lease agreements also have a provision against assignments and subletting. An “assignment” of a lease is the transfer of the tenant’s entire interest in the property. A “sublease” can apply to a physical part of the property, or for a period of time within the existing lease. For example, a “head tenant” may wish to rent out a part of the property such as a room or a basement to another person to the “sub-tenant.” The tenant can also rent out the entire property for a specific period of time, such as the summer months during a one-year lease. The tenant should receive written consent of the landlord before assigning or subletting the lease. Disputes and Legal Actions Often, disputes between landlords and tenants can be resolved faster and at a lower cost through settlement negotiation and mediation rather than going to court. In some circumstances, it may be necessary for the landlord or the tenant to bring a legal action in court. Be aware than many lease agreements include a clause that allows the landlord to recover attorney fees to enforce lease violations, including eviction actions. Parties can represent themselves or hire a private attorney. The Utah Online Court Assistance Program (OCAP) on the Utah court website provides assistance in preparing court documents if you do not have a lawyer. If a tenant violates the lease, the court can issue an “Order of Restitution” or an order of eviction giving the tenant notice to move out within a certain number of days. If needed, consider hiring a private lawyer to assert your rights. Most lawyers will provide a free 30-minute initial consultation. Some lawyers also provide mediation services to help resolve disputes.

Gaylene Rogers | Mar 13, 2019

Rehab or Prehab for Retail Sale

OVERVIEW Several factors must be considered when marketing a rehab or prehab, fixing only critical problems inside and making the property attractive on the outside. 1. Identify your target market. 2. Create your marketing strategy for resale, including positioning the property correctly. 3. Show your distinguishing style on the inside. 4. Make the outside attractive. 5. Double check the details. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET MARKET If you are rehabbing, you are probably targeting the traditional home buyer or investor who wants to buy and rent. Depending on the price, you might specifically target deal hunters. For a prehab, you could have three markets – deal hunters, flippers, and remodelers. CREATE YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY FOR RESALE Price is king and positioning is queen! Obviously you need to check comps in the area so you can buy and sell at a competitive price. Comps also may provide insight into whether rehabbing or prehabbing makes more sense. If you are rehabbing, you’ll need to position the house as the best move-in ready option available. Prehabs must be positioned as the best deal on the market for someone who doesn’t mind doing a little remodeling to make the house their own at the best price. This strategy opens the market to real estate investors. Position with professional pictures! Cell phone cameras simply won’t do your masterpiece justice. Mention renovation loans in your advertising if you are prehabbing. The projected renovation costs can be factored into the overall loan amount if the prospect qualifies. This can help prospective buyers understand their options more clearly. Create a resale marketing strategy that fits your style. A Realtor® likely will encourage you to advertise or show the property only after it is 100% complete. Waiting can cut into your profits, however. Every investor wants real estate to sell fast, so some begin the marketing process on the first day the property is acquired – especially when the target buyers want to complete some of the renovation themselves. Should you incorporate a few upscale popular features? It depends on the neighborhood and what the buyers expect. Rather than focusing 100% on sticking to a budget when making these kinds of decisions, always consider buyer’s preferences. House renovations that are based solely on a budget can become costly if the house doesn’t sell at the right time! It may take a granite countertop, for example, to catch the eye of the right buyer in your geographic market. If you’re selling to an investor, verify their funding source before you sign a contract. SHOW YOUR DISTINGUISHING STYLE ON THE INSIDE First, have it cleaned by a professional. Clean sells. Clean both inside and outside the windows as well as the window sills so prospects will get a great view rather than being distracted by bugs and dust! Clean out the closets and other storage spaces. Most people want storage space, so make yours look as spacious as possible. Be sure all pet hair and pet odors are gone. (Prospects can smell someone else’s pet when they walk in the door.) Feature the uniqueness of your house. What makes it stand out from the rest? You may want to add your personal style to distinguish it from all the neutral houses they have seen. (Don’t go crazy! Beware of flashy paint color, for example. I tried to sell a house that featured burgundy walls several years ago and had no takers until I painted the walls a more popular color. Lesson learned.) A little staging in the living space, kitchen/dining, and master bedroom can go a long way toward helping your potential buyers visualize what it could be like to live in the house. A simple, affordable example is to use attractive bedding. It doesn’t have to be expensive; you may want to purchase a used bedspread, for example. Be sure everything looks tidy. No clutter! MAKE THE OUTSIDE ATTRACTIVE Make a good first impression with curb appeal. Follow a landscape plan even if it is a simple one. For example, incorporate a flower bed or a few well-designed flower pots, remove all the weeds, and maintain the lawn. Trim trees if they are obviously overgrown. Place trash and recycle bins out of site. The bottom line is that you want the property to look attractive and clean. DOUBLE CHECK THE DETAILS Be very choosy about your contractors and pay them well if you wish to build relationships for future real estate projects. Only accept quality work, regardless of whether you are doing a rehab or prehab. Double-check ALL the work. It’s not about trust; it’s about your investment. You have the final responsibility for Quality Control. SUMMARY There’s more than one way to fix and flip a home. You can choose to completely rehab the house or prehab by repairing only the most essential areas and sprucing it up. Either way you must carefully choose your target market and use strategies to attract them to your property so everyone wins! Gaylene Rogers Lonergan, Board Certified Commercial and Residential Real Estate Attorney | 214-503-7509 | lonerganlaw.com | [email protected] © Gaylene Rogers Lonergan and Lonergan Law Firm, PLLC, 2017-19. All rights reserved. This article is provided for educational reasons exclusively and is not meant to be construed as legal advice. The Lonergan Law Firm, PLLC, will represent you only after being retained and that agreement is made in writing.

Roger Anthony Moss | Jul 29, 2018

Resolving Tenant Landlord Conflict

Doing the Relationship A working, healthy tenant-landlord relationship depends on honest, direct communication, and a focus on mutual concerns and interests. It must be nurtured to thrive. Even when relations are poor, respectful and clear communication practices can resolve problems and avoid crisis. Whether you are a tenant or landlord, these steps will help you develop a constructive relationship and protect yourself at the same time: Connect - Take your tenant or landlord to coffee. Have a conversation with no agenda. Ask about them. Tell them about yourself. You are in a business relationship, and it depends on some personal connection. Report - if you have a problem, communicate appropriately. Whether it is a leaking roof or chronic late rent payments, first call the responsible party. Then send an email confirming the conversation and what actions each of you will take. If the problem is serious, print out the email and deliver it in person or by mail. Legal Notices - Some things (not all of them bad) require special handling. A legal notice must be in writing (ink on paper) and either personally delivered or sent in a manner defined by the lease or local law. If landlord has not fixed a leaky roof, or if tenant ignores requests to pay rent on time, always send or deliver a communication following the legal notice rules. Keep It Cheerful - No matter how you feel, written communications should be polite and professional. If you end up in small claims court for some reason, the judge will notice the positive tone. Avoid text messages - texting is a great way to make a coffee date, to confirm that the plumber is on the way, or that the check really, really is in the mail. However texts should NEVER be used to communicate important or complicated messages. Put the Relationship in Writing Never, ever rent real estate without a written agreement. If you have paid for a hotel room, you've signed a contract covering hours or days. The greater the asset value, the more complicated the purpose for renting it, the longer the planned duration of the relationship, the more important it becomes to express details in writing. Do so at the very beginning, in order to establish the relationship and chart its course. Landlords - Invest in a lease document provided by a professional resource. It should be customized for your property. Clarity on business terms is every bit as important as legal points. Get help from an attorney who has experience leasing and managing real estate. Tenants - Read what you sign, and get help understanding what you read. Invest in an attorney review, or access the abundance of tenant resources available online, including through Avvo. Dispute Resolution Make sure your lease contains a mediation provision. Not arbitration - never agree to mandatory arbitration ahead of a controversy. Doing so limits your ability to negotiate. Mediation, on the other hand, is voluntary, confidential, and the parties determine the outcome. Often a neutral third party (the mediator) can help parties restore a working relationship, even when anger and fear makes that seem impossible. Housing and other leasing disputes manifest in concrete ways - a roof leaks, a resident cannot pay rent, people are disrespecting one another. These problems often point to chronic relational conflict. The best remedy to such conflict is to establish constructive dialogue about mutual concerns and interests, rather than debate rights and the law. Mediation can do that - swiftly, flexibly, and affordably.

Ronald Jay Eisenberg | Apr 14, 2018

What may Missouri tenants do when a landlord fails to make a necessary repair?

What does the statute say? 441.234. 1. The provisions of this section shall apply only to a tenant who has lawfully resided on the rental premises for six consecutive months, has paid all rent and charges due the landlord during that time, and did not during that time receive any written notice from the landlord of any violation of any lease provision or house rule, which violation was not subsequently cured. 2. If there exists a condition on residential premises which detrimentally affects the habitability, sanitation or security of the premises, and the condition constitutes a violation of a local municipal housing or building code, and the reasonable cost to correct the condition is less than three hundred dollars, or one-half of the periodic rent, whichever is greater, provided that the cost may not exceed one month's rent, the tenant may notify the landlord of the tenant's intention to correct the condition at the landlord's expense. If the landlord fails to correct the condition within fourteen days after being notified by the tenant in writing or as promptly as required in case of an emergency, the tenant may cause the work to be done in a workmanlike manner and, after submitting to the landlord an itemized statement, including receipts, deduct from the rent the actual and reasonable cost of the work, as documented by the receipts, not exceeding the amount specified in this subsection; provided, however, if the landlord provides to the tenant within said notice period a written statement disputing the necessity of the repair, then the tenant may not deduct the cost of the repair from the rent without securing, before the repair is performed, a written certification from the local municipality or government entity that the condition requiring repair constitutes a violation of local municipal housing or building code. In the event of such certification, the tenant may cause the work to be done as described herein if the landlord fails to correct the condition within fourteen days after the date of said certification or the date of the notice from the tenant, whichever is later, or as promptly as required in case of an emergency. The tenant's remedy provided herein is not exclusive of any other remedies which may be available to the tenant under the law. No lease agreement shall contain a waiver of the rights described in this section. 3. A tenant may not repair at the landlord's expense if the condition was caused by the deliberate or negligent act or omission of the tenant, a member of the tenant's family, or other person on the premises with tenant's consent. A tenant may not deduct in the aggregate more than the amount of one month's rent during any twelve-month period. Does the statute provide meaningful relief? If you have been a perfect tenant who has paid your rent on time every month for 6 consecutive months, never written notice from the landlord of any lease violation that was not subsequently cured, and the repair costs no more than $300 or half a month's rent, whichever is greater, then yes. Unfortunately, the monetary cap precludes most significant repairs. What if the statute does not apply to your situation? If the repair statute does not apply and you cannot convince the landlord to make the repairs, there are other options, ranging from a simple letter from an attorney to the landlord, to filing a lawsuit. Depending on the facts, different claims can be asserted, such as breach of contract or violation of the Merchandising Practices Act, if the landlord made a misrepresentation.

Jonathan Eric May | Sep 24, 2017

What Are My Rights If My Home Was Damaged By Hurricane Irma?

Compliance Clearly, there have been many homes damaged in the wake of Hurricane Irma. It is very important that tenants know their rights concerning damage to their apartment and how they can get repairs completed by their landlord. If the landlord doesn't do the repairs, then the tenant may be able to leave the property and find a new apartment that is in good condition. A residential lease may indicate which party will have to pay for repairs to a property. When the lease does not indicate which party or if there is not provision at all then the following applies. Florida Statute 83.51 requires that landlords comply with all applicable building, housing and health codes. A landlord must maintain the roof, windows, doors, floors, steps, porches, exterior walls, foundations and other structural components in good repair and capable of resisting normal forces and loads and the plumbing in reasonable working condition. Homes must have proper locks and keys, screens in good condition, smoke detectors, heat, running water and hot water. Landlord must provide for the extermination of rats, mice, roaches, ants, termites and bedbugs. Notice Florida Statute 83.201 provides that the tenant must give written notice declaring the premises wholly untenantable (in need of repair) and give the landlord 20 days to make the repair or maintenance. Tenant will withhold rent from the time the property was damaged and written notice was submitted to the landlord. If that period passes without proper repair, tenant may terminate the lease and abandon the property. Seek the advice of an attorney at the beginning of the process to reduce potential liability. Termination Florida Statute 83.63 provides that if the premises are damaged or destroyed so that enjoyment is substantially impaired, then the tenant may terminate the agreement and vacate the premises. If the landlord completes the repair, then you may reduce the rent by the amount of proportional loss that you incurred by not having full use of the property. Thus, we advise seeking the advice of an attorney if your property has damage or is not livable. A lease dispute is a very delicate situation that must be carefully attended to in order to avoid liability in conjunction with the agreement. At The Lions' Den, we will protect your interests and help you maintain a home that is safe and secure for you and your family.