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The Ultimate Guide to Rental Property Maintenance for Tenants

A common misconception that runs rampant in the housing industry is that property maintenance is an affair reserved for landlords. As a result, we have seen many instances where a landlord complains that a tenant has left a trail of destruction in the house and is not willing to offer compensation. Although the security deposit fee is set aside to meet these requirements, at times it is not enough to cover all the costs of damages. The Fair Housing Act makes it perfectly clear that there are maintenance requirements from both landlords and tenants.

The main obligation of the landlord is to provide a habitable dwelling for the tenant, which includes repairing damages caused by wear and tear. On the other hand, the Act requires the tenant to clean and tidy the property and also provide repairs for damages not caused by natural causes. For instance, if the damages are as a result of tenant negligence or deliberate destruction, then they are required by law to meet all the costs of repair/replacement. Here is the ultimate guide to rental property maintenance for tenants.

Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities
The main requirement of tenants as outlined by most state laws is to keep the house in a clean and habitable condition. Major repairs involving natural wear and tear of the property are shouldered by the landlord. Tenants on the other hand are mandated to assume charges of damages caused by daily usage of the property and also to ensure the property is maintained at almost the exact condition they found it when they initially moved in. Here are tenants' maintenance responsibilities:

Waste Management

As the saying goes 'you made the bed, now you have to lay in it,' tenants should be responsible for the mess they make in the house. It is absurd for the landlords to make daily visits to the tenants' houses to collect garbage. Waste management practices such as monitoring waste levels within and outside the apartment, collecting garbage and properly disposing of them should be the work of the tenants. Poor waste management practices will render the apartment inhabitable and may expose you and others to serious health risks.

Maintaining Utility Systems Appropriately

Utility systems such as plumbing, electrical, heating and ventilation are within your care. As a tenant, you will have to ensure plumbing fixtures are used appropriately to prevent clogging of pipes. Failure to do so may result in leakages within the house, which may lead to nasty odours and mould build-up. Other minor requirements such as replacing the air filters for air conditioners and routine checkups may also fall within your responsibilities, if they are listed in the lease agreement. If not, we would advise you not to trouble yourself with the routine checkups and just let the landlord handle them. They are usually carried out by professionals and cost money. So, unless the landlord has agreed to deduct the checkup costs from your next rent, it is wise to remind them when the facilities are ready for maintenance.

Adding Fixtures

Tenants are not allowed to change or add fixtures to the property. If you are looking to add a fixture, then you must get written consent from the landlord (to protect you from litigations) and it should be in line with the lease agreement. If there is a possibility that installation of the fixture could cause irreparable damage to the property, don't go ahead with it. It is also worth noting that the owner becomes the rightful owner of the fixture once you move out, unless you and the landlord come to a different agreement which is highly unlikely.
If you are looking to lease a rental unit with no preinstalled fixtures, then we would advise you to consider installing a fire duct or a range hood in the kitchen. This exhaust system promotes cleaner air in the house by utilising a powerful fan that blows away smoke, dust and debris away from the kitchen. A range hood also reduces the risk of fire by eliminating grease buildup, which may work as a potential fuel source for the fire. This way you will be killing two birds with one stone: keeping the house clean and habitable and also protecting it from fire risks.

Common Examples of Natural Wear and Tear Covered by the Landlord

  • Faded or peeling wall paint due to sunlight

  • Carpet wear as a result of normal use e.g. marks caused by furniture

  • Warped doors and wooden fixtures caused by temperature, moisture or age

  • Dirty grout

  • Loose door handles

  • Faded or worn out draperies

  • Stains on bathroom fixtures

  • Flea and pest extermination as a result of an outbreak in the area

Examples of Damages Covered by Tenants

  • Clogged drainage caused by misuse e.g. flushing nappies and pads in the toilet

  • Tears, holes, burnt spots and animal stains on carpets and curtains

  • Holes in the walls

  • Broken doors, windows, locks and handles

  • Broken appliances due to poor use and negligence

  • Flea and pest control resulting from poor hygiene

  • Cracked countertops in the kitchen and bathroom

  • Excessive mould or mildew in the bathroom

How to Avoid Litigations from the Landlord

  • Do what is right by the lease agreement

  • Know all the relevant rental laws to avoid being taken advantage of

  • Or register with a professional rental management firm to handle all your issues

  • Report any damage and maintenance issues to your landlord urgently, so that they can respond in time to avoid excessive damage to the property

  • Keep your side of the bargain to avoid conflicts

  • Do not withhold rent to coerce the landlord to meet the cost of damages caused by your own recklessness

Benefits of Having a Good Relationship with Your Landlord

  • Positive reference from the landlord that will enable you to move into your next rental unit

  • You may be able to ask for occasional favours such as paying the rent late

  • You are also more likely to get your security deposit fee at the end of the lease

  • Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When not blogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.