When we think about property maintenance, we tend to think about a landlord's legal responsibilities. Most notably, Rockville landlords must ensure their properties meet all Maryland Performance Building Standards.
What about your tenants? Is it lawful for them to expect all property maintenance to fall on you, or do they have legal obligations of their own?
The short answer is that tenants do have legal responsibilities when it comes to maintaining their rental property. However, the language is a little vague.
Read on to learn more about the kinds of property damage you can and can't expect tenants to address.
Preventing Excessive Damage
State and local laws require Maryland tenants to leave a rented property in more or less the same condition. However, there are exceptions for what the state calls normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is generally described as the expected aging of things like carpeting or appliances that happen with use and time.
Tenants have a legal responsibility to prevent damage that exceeds normal wear and tear. This includes meeting any requirements outlined in the lease, such as returning painted walls to a neutral color before moving out. It also includes taking reasonable steps to prevent or address damage.
Cooperating with Property Maintenance
What does it mean for tenants to take reasonable steps to address damage? Imagine that your tenant discovers a leaking pipe below the kitchen sink. While they aren't obligated to repair the pipe on their own, they are obligated to report the damage to you.
Using a tenant portal is a great way to encourage and streamline maintenance requests. You can also use tenant portals to inform tenants of any non-emergency maintenance you have scheduled for their unit. Tenants must grant access to the property for maintenance as long as the landlord provides 72 hours' notice.
Basic Property Care
If you're a first-time landlord, you may not know which maintenance requests are acceptable and which are not. Tenants should report any property damage or concerns regarding:
- Structural elements (e.g., walls, roof, foundation, etc.)
- Plumbing and electrical wiring
- Heating and cooling systems
- Environmental hazards
- Broken or malfunctioning landlord-owned appliances
However, tenants are expected to take basic care of their property. This includes taking steps like cleaning and removing garbage.
There are some gray areas that you should address in your lease. For example, specify lawn care expectations for townhomes and single-family homes. A good lease lays the groundwork for holding tenants accountable for their share of property maintenance.
Build Better Tenant Relations with PMI
Property maintenance is a joint effort between property owners and their tenants. Building strong relationships with tenants and providing a well-written lease are two ways to solidify this joint effort.
Whether you're struggling to find trustworthy tenants or to keep up with property maintenance, PMI Maryland Solutions can help. We offer both full-service and customizable property management to ensure every Rockville landlord gets the exact help they need. Contact us to learn more about how we can make a difference.