While rental property owners are responsible for keeping their homes habitable and safe, not every maintenance issue that arises during the course of a tenancy will be at the expense of the owner. If a resident causes damage or creates an issue that needs to be repaired, it’s that resident’s responsibility to fix it.
It’s important to know how to identify maintenance issues that are the responsibility of the tenant versus the responsibility of the landlord.
California Rental Property Maintenance: Tenant Responsibilities
Here’s an example of when a tenant rather than a landlord may be responsible for a repair that’s needed in a rental property.
Perhaps your resident will call because the toilet is backed up. As the landlord, you’ll send out a plumber to take care of the issue right away.
After the plumber snakes the toilet, it may be discovered that sanitary napkins or other items that shouldn’t have been flushed are causing the clog. Or, perhaps the sink won’t drain and after a plumber inspects it, you discover that grease has been poured down the garbage disposal.
Issues like these are caused by the actions of your resident. That means the tenant should pay the plumbing bill.
We know that tenants can easily ignore these bills, in which case the cost should be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit. If your tenant disputes that charge, you’ll want to be prepared to defend it. Work with a credible, licensed plumber who is professional and insured. You can ask the plumber to document the root cause of the problem on the invoice, and this will give you the documentation you need to verify the charge if your tenant disputes it.
California Rental Property Maintenance: Landlord Responsibilities
On the other hand, if the tenant calls because the toilet won’t flush or the sink won’t drain and a plumber finds that the blockage is caused by a root in the pipe or some kind of malfunction or breakdown in the system, the owner will be responsible for the repair.
When this occurs, the repair has to be made in a timely fashion. As an owner, you’re responsible for all functions and systems of the home, including water leaks, pest infestations, mold, electrical issues, and sewer problems. If you wait too long and don’t make repairs quickly, the tenant has a legal right to make their own repairs and deduct the cost of those repairs from the amount of rent that you’re paid. This is a situation you want to avoid.
Working Together to Maintain Your Rental Home
Owners and tenants have to work together to keep the property in good condition. You want to protect the condition and the value of the investment because it’s your asset. Your residents want to enjoy the home they’re living in. Make sure your tenants understand that they are responsible for the normal maintenance of the property such as replacing light bulbs, replacing the air and furnace filters, and reporting any issues right away.
You don’t want your tenants to hesitate before reporting maintenance problems because small problems can very quickly become large problems when they’re ignored. For example, if there’s a minor water leak in a bathroom cabinet, it might not seem like a big deal. But when it begins to rot the wood and cause mold, you have an expensive mess to clean up.
Ultimately, the tenant is entitled to normal wear and tear, because the home is going to have that no matter who is living in the property. However, your tenants do not have the right to disregard the condition of the property and they can’t neglect to report any issues that need to be remedied.
We hope this helps you understand your responsibilities and what you can expect from your tenants. If you have any questions about how to handle maintenance at your California rental home, please contact us at Progressive Property Management.