If you are thinking about renting out your property to tenants, there are many things you need to be aware of. One of those things is your liability for making repairs to the property. Any major problems need to be fixed quickly or you could face several problems with your tenants:
Hold the Rent Until the Problem is Fixed
One thing tenants can do is hold their rent payment until the issue has been repaired. This will vary from state to state, but in many cases a tenant can either not pay their rent or place the rent into an escrow account. This way, they have legally paid their rent, and the landlord will only gain access to it once any repairs have been made to the property.
Getting it Fixed Themselves
Another option many tenants have when dealing with an issue is to hire their own repairman and having the problem fixed themselves. Then they can deduct the amount off of the next month's rent payment, so long as they have provided a receipt. This can sometimes be a bit tricky, however, especially if the repairman is a personal friend of the tenants.
This could result in a conflict of interest if their friend decides to overcharge you. It is always best to send your own repairman to fix any issues as soon as you know about them.
Call in a Local Building Inspector
If you leave your tenants hanging for too long, they may end up calling the building inspector or other authoritative body to report the problem at a higher level. These agencies will then require you by law to have the problem repaired as soon as possible. This all boils down to how big of a problem it really is. Building inspectors will be quick to have you fix anything dealing with water, air conditioning, heating, or roof leakage. They probably won't be on you as fast for things like cosmetic damage.
Breaking the Lease
If major problems with the property persist for too long, the tenants may end up breaking their lease and moving out. This can be touchy for all parties involved, because it will require a lot of proof on both sides of the issue to ultimately resolve the problem.
If the repairs needed weren't' provided in a timely manner, and the tenants have proof that you were contacted more than once about them, they could actually sue you for partial refund of their rent, or even for their discomfort while they were there. However, if you think they had no grounds to leave, you would need to argue why to a judge in small claims court.
If you want to avoid all of the issues with tenants, you need to act on any problems as soon as you know about them. The goal is to fix whatever is wrong, then find out the cause. If the tenants are repeatedly causing the problems, such as a clogged water pipe due to flushing improper things down the drain, for example, then you can bill them for those damages accordingly.
To learn more, contact a firm like Bayer Jerger & Underwood with any questions or concerns you have.