When you bought a rental property, you took on the responsibility of taking care of your tenants and making sure they follow the lease agreement. Being a landlord is undoubtedly a challenging responsibility that comes with a multitude of tasks and responsibilities.
Managing rental properties requires a delicate balance between meeting tenants’ needs, ensuring the upkeep of the property, and navigating through the intricacies of rental agreements.
The challenges become even more pronounced when tenants, for various reasons, don’t contribute to making the landlord’s job any easier.
However, even when you’re dealing with problematic tenants, you should always prioritize their needs and handle maintenance and repair issues quickly.
You Have a Legal Obligation to Your Tenants
First and foremost, you have a legal obligation to make repairs and perform maintenance promptly for your tenants. This means when the toilet gets backed up, a pipe breaks or an electrical outlet is dead, you need to fix it fast.
Certain things like heat, water, and hot water are considered essential and you only have a few days maximum to make repairs. You can take a bit longer – around 7-10 days – for other repairs in some states, but if you put off repairs any longer than that, you’re asking for trouble.
For example, most states require landlords to fix the following within 24 hours:
- No heat
- No hot water
- No running water
- Burst water
- Gas leaks
- Sewage leaks
- Dangerous electrical faults
If you don’t make repairs within a reasonable amount of time, in most states, your tenants can make the repairs themselves and request reimbursement or legally deduct the cost from the rent. If you want control over who does the repair and what you pay, don’t put them off.
Being a landlord requires staying on top of your tenants’ needs and not letting anything slip through the cracks. Prioritizing their needs makes it easier to avoid complicated legal situations, which brings up the next point.
Your Tenants Can (and Probably Will) Sue You
If you fail to meet your obligations as a landlord where repairs and maintenance are concerned, your tenants will probably file a lawsuit against you. Whether or not they win, you’ll have to spend time and money to fight it in court.
Judges are usually more sympathetic to tenants, so it’s not going to be easy to win your case if you’ve done anything wrong. Courts tend to hold landlords responsible to a high degree, which means if you’ve put off a big repair for weeks or even months, you can expect to lose the case. Likewise, if your lease agreement includes a stipulation that you will perform certain types of maintenance regularly but fail to do so, you can expect the judge to side with your tenant.
If you lose a court case brought against you by a tenant, you’ll likely end up having to pay a judgment to them and/or be ordered to make the neglected repairs fast. This can get expensive because you’ll probably have to pay your tenant’s legal fees associated with filing the lawsuit in addition to your legal costs and making repairs.
Your Tenants Deserve to Live in Peace
Whether it’s a simple fix like tightening a loose cabinet handle or replacing the mechanism in the toilet tank, or something bigger like fixing a water heater, your tenants will appreciate knowing you’re taking care of business. If you don’t handle issues fast, you’ll be causing stress for your tenants in addition to the inconvenience. They shouldn’t have to sit around worrying about whether or not you’re going to fix the problem.
Your tenants deserve to live in peace and know that you are taking care of issues as they arise. The faster you take care of repairs and maintenance for your tenants, the more they’ll come to trust you and be cooperative when you need to make changes to the lease or enforce lease terms.
Take Care of Your Tenants to Protect Your Property
Last, but not least, the more you ignore your tenants’ needs, the more likely they are to cause damage to the property. For example, if a month goes by and a tenant still doesn’t have heat, they might get mad and a little vindictive.
You just never know when a tenant is going to get mad enough to intentionally or neglectfully destroy your property or leave it full of trash. They might give you notice that they’re moving out and ruin the place on their move-out day just to spite you. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.
If you want to protect your property, you need happy tenants, which requires staying on top of all your legal obligations for maintenance and repairs.