Being a landlord and maintaining rental properties can be a lot of work. From prepping your rental for viewing and doing inspections to making repairs, collecting payments, and following the laws associated with renting property, there are a lot of things you need to do and know to be successful as a landlord.

When you take on all of these responsibilities, it can be easy to fall behind on your landlord obligations, and sometimes you have no choice but to reprioritize and decide which things you absolutely need to do now and which things you can save for later. Reorganizing your tasks can help you accomplish the things that need your attention the most; however, there are a few things that you, as a landlord, should always make time to do or you could face legal consequences. 

In this post, we go over a few important landlord responsibilities that could cause legal troubles if neglected.

Do Inspections

Most landlords know how important it is to do a Rental Inspection Report before a tenant moves in and after a tenant moves out. A Rental Inspection Report helps determine what repairs need to be made, who is responsible for the cost of those repairs, and what costs can be deducted from a tenant’s security deposit. In some states, you are required to do a walk-through inspection in order to use a tenant’s deposit to cover repair costs, and failing to do so could result in the tenant taking you to court to recover deposit money.

Routine inspections (walk-throughs that are done a few times during the lease term as opposed to at the start or end of the tenancy) are not on the to-do-list of many landlords, but they are very important in helping ensure your property is being kept in good condition and everything is in working order. Keep in mind that to do a routine inspection, you need to provide your tenant with a Notice to Enter sometime before you want to inspect the property.

By doing regular walk-throughs, landlords can note what needs to be fixed and arrange to fix it. Walk-throughs can also help landlords discover problems tenants may have neglected to mention, like a leaky faucet or a pest problem. It helps landlords stay on top of their obligations, avoid delays with repairs, and prevent issues from spreading or worsening and thus costing more money (such as handling a pest infestation before it spreads to other units).

In other words, inspections can help landlords avoid potential legal issues by identifying issues before tenants complain about them, as well as establishing a record regarding the state of the property should that information ever be needed in court.

Make Repairs in a Timely Manner

Making or arranging repairs is a big part of being a landlord. Once a repair has been identified, it is important that landlords fix things in a timely manner because neglecting to complete a repair (or immensely delaying one) can result in legal problems.

There is no set timeframe for landlords to respond to repair requests, but often, it depends on the laws for the jurisdiction the property is in and what repair needs to be made. There are some repairs that must be looked after as soon as possible such as issues to do with heat, plumbing, electricity, fire safety, mold, and more (in other words, issues that affect the unit’s habituality).

Check Common Areas for Issues

Ignoring the state of common areas, such as walkways, courtyards, or TV rooms, can also result in legal issues, so it is important that landlords do walk arounds to ensure everything is in order.

For instance, if it snows heavily and the building’s walkways are icy, landlords should put deicer on them to help prevent tenants from falling. Likewise, if a cord in the common TV room is frayed and could be a fire hazard, it should be dealt with immediately.

It’s not always clear what common area issues could cause problems for you in the future, so your best course of action is to handle issues as soon as you can and prioritize problems that have a chance of injuring tenants (or their guests) in the future.

Fulfilling Your Duties as a Landlord

A landlord can find themselves at fault for failing to fulfill their landlord obligations. This includes not doing inspections before using security deposits, not doing regular inspections to identify the condition of the property, neglecting important repairs, or ignoring the state of common areas. Landlords can help protect themselves by ensuring they resolve issues as they happen rather than waiting to make repairs.

Posted by Ashley Camarneiro

Ashley is an experienced researcher and writer with an interest in real estate, contract, and family law. Before starting at LawDepot in the summer of 2017, Ashley worked as a legal assistant in the corporate and family law sector.