The newsLINK Group - Dealing with Fix-It-Yourself Tenants

Editorial Library Category: Multi-Family & Property Management Topics: Fix-It-Yourself Tenants Title: Dealing with Fix-It-Yourself Tenants Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Apartment maintenance can be a problem. When it comes to living in a rental, tenants do have a legal right to health, safety, and structural standards. If a tenant tells you about an important problem, such as a broken heater or leaks in the roof that could make a rental unlivable and you don’t take care of it promptly, then the tenant has the right to take care of the problem for you and deduct the cost from the rent. Editorial: Dealing with Fix-It-Yourself Tenants 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 Apartment maintenance can be a problem. When it comes to living in a rental, tenants do have a legal right to health, safety, and structural standards. If a tenant tells you about an important problem, such as a broken heater or leaks in the roof that could make a rental unlivable and you don’t take care of it promptly, then the tenant has the right to take care of the problem for you and deduct the cost from the rent. The tenant might choose to go ahead and do the repair personally, but the tenant also has the option of hiring someone else. Maintenance problems can be categorized as being emergencies, or as major or minor problems. If something is an emergency, it threatens the health and safety of anyone living in the apartment. This includes issues such as a defective furnace, flooding, gas leaks, and major damage to the roof. Because the consequences are serious ones, you have 24 hours to act. Major problems are things that won’t kill anyone, but that certainly affect quality of life, like not having a functioning water heater. Minor problems are just that; minor irritations. The paint or wallpaper could be peeling, faucets might leak, household lighting or locks could be defective, and maybe there’s a problem with bugs. If the lock that won’t work happens to be the front door, that’s more of a major problem than a minor one. Since some problems are major ones and some are less urgent, your response should be determined by the seriousness of the problem and the consequences if you don’t take care of the problem promptly. If an apartment is unsafe, dirty, or has a serious deficiency on something important, like the availability of hot and cold water, you need to respond as fast as reasonably possible. At the same time, you have an obligation to take care of the smaller items, too. The law is vague here. You are supposed to keep the apartment in a state of “reasonable repair.” What does that mean, exactly? It hasn’t been legally defined. Take a generous attitude, though; the last thing you want is for the judge in some court to define it for you. It’s also important to keep in mind that the tenant has some responsibilities toward upkeep, too. If a tenant’s babysitter tried to flush a toilet, and then a plumber has to come unclog the toilet, it’s the tenant who should be paying for that problem, not you. If the carpet has gotten old and worn, though, it’s your job to pay for the replacement. For a good overview of what Michigan requires of tenants and landlords, you might want to refer to Tenants and Landlords: A Practical Guide . You can find it online at www.legislature.mi.gov/Publications/tenantlandlord.pdf . Unsafe, Dirty, and Deficient Rentals States have their own standards when it comes to tenant housing, and they are free to change those standards at any time. However, some basics apply everywhere. You should probably pay prompt attention to any of the following: Unsafe or unsanitary living conditions or common areas. Deficiencies in any of the following: the electrical system, heating, plumbing, hot and cold water, air conditioning, and air conditioning General Maintenance Not all maintenance and repair situations are the same. Sometimes, when the problem doesn’t seem like a serious one, having the tenant take care of the maintenance problem can seem like an attractive option. This is especially true in a larger property where numbers alone make the need for repairs more likely than might otherwise be the case. Unfortunately, though, there are a couple of down sides to the practice: Suppose the tenant gets hurt while making the repair. You might have liability for any damages. The tenant might not be qualified to make the repair and could end up making the maintenance problem worse. Even more serious, the result of an

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