As a Tenant, What are you Responsible for

For your rental to feel like home, you should establish a trusting relationship with your landlord. Disputes are bound to arise, and you should fully understand the rental agreement, acknowledge the rights and responsibilities. The best protection against the future disagreements is a well-negotiated lease that addresses the worries of both parties. The lease agreement should avoid grey areas, outline, and clearly articulate the significant maintenance and payment responsibilities. The following are the most common concerns and controversial questions of the tenant-landlord disputes. 

Are renters responsible for mold?

There are no federal standards on the mold standards in residential buildings. Only a few states– New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, California, and Texas- adopted health codes that set mold thresholds for indoor environments. Even though most states didn’t legislate the mold provisions, providing a habitable residence is a universal rule across all state jurisdiction. Landlords have to disclose any potential health hazards before the lease signing and remove any hazards that make the residence uninhabitable. Mold can be considered one of such risks. 

The landlord should address any mold that resulted from the structural problems with plumbing, isolation, and ventilation as part of maintenance and repair. However, mold caused by unsanitary living habits cannot be pinned on the landlord. If the mold colony appeared in the corner of the room where tenants pile the dirty wet clothes, it is reasonable to expect that he will clean it up. Nevertheless, there are a lot of gray areas when it concerns mold since sometimes it is hard to determine what exactly caused the problem. 

Are renters responsible for cleaning gutters?

This responsibility concerns renters and landlords of the single-standing houses and single-family homes. When you live in a house like that, your maintenance duties usually also include some lawn mowing and bush cutting. If your lease agreement has provisions that specify that the tenant is responsible for “exterior maintenance” and “landscaping,” then cleaning the gutters might be on your to-do list. 

However, the argument goes both ways, the landlord of the house usually responsible for home exterior and keeping outside walls and roof in good shape. Therefore, since the gutters are part of the roof drainage, the landlord is expected to take care of them. It is uncommon for landlords to put responsibility for gutter cleaning on the tenant. It is a dangerous task for a tenant who is not equipped with appropriate tools and skills, and additional liability for a landlord. To avoid any misinterpretation, the responsibility regarding gutter cleaning should be defined in the lease. 

Light Bulbs

Are renters responsible for light bulbs?

There are not established legal practices regarding this matter. The responsibility regarding the light bulbs should be articulated in the lease agreement. As a rule, tenants are responsible for replacing light bulbs in the apartment, while the landlord is responsible for light bulbs outside and in the common areas. 

Are renters responsible for pest control?

In general, the landlord is responsible for pest control and preventing future infestation. That includes closing all the cracks and gaps in the exterior walls, sealing the openings used for utilities, covering the chimneys and vents with wire mesh, etc. If the rental was not properly safeguarded against infestation, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the landlord. However, if unsanitary habits of the renter lead to an infestation, then the tenant can be deemed responsible for the pest control. If the tenants frequently live the food out, do not clean the kitchen sink, or wash the floors, the pests can choose the rental as their new residence. Landlords have to prove that infestation was caused by the tenants and gather evidence, document the state of the apartment before and after the move-in, gather proof of the unsanitary conditions. 

Are renters responsible for water damage? 

Water damage is one of the main reasons for concern for renters and landlords. It is common damage related to the improper functioning of pipes and plumbing. It can also be caused by roof leaks. The legal framework is pretty straightforward on this matter; the landlord has to provide a safe and habitable environment for the renters. Pipe and roof leaks make the environment unhealthy and uninhabitable for the renters and must be mitigated by the landlord. 

The tenant is responsible for preventing further water damage by promptly informing the landlord about the problem. Additionally, the tenant can demand the reimburse in case the personal possessions were damaged. 

Are renters responsible for property taxes?

Property taxes are assigned by the state and local government to a person who owns the property. The size of the tax is determined on a case by case basis since the landlord can claim a deduction on its federal tax return. If the landlord pays the mortgage on the rental property, the tax payments may be included in the mortgage payments. Normally, the landlords pay taxes for their assets by themselves. Nevertheless, it is not illegal to mandate renters to pay the property tax directly to the bank, local or state government, but it is not a default assumption and has to be stated in the lease. This is an extremely rare practice that requires needlessly complicated procedures. 

Are renters responsible for carpet replacement?

Tenants cannot be charged for what constitutes normal wear and tear. It is natural that during the lease, some of the amenities lose its gloss. If the carpet does not have tears, rips, or serious stains that can be removed by routine cleaning, it is considered normal wear and tear. In this scenario, the landlord has to pay for the cleaning.

In cases when the carpeting is badly damaged, or have stains that require the dry cleaning, a landlord can charge the tenant with the costs of cleaning or even require to buy a replacement. This kind of damage enables the landlord even to withhold part of the security deposit during the move-out. If such a situation arises, you need to check the age of the carpet; if it is beyond the carpet life expectancy, you can dispute these claims. In order to do it, you should take pictures of the carpeting during the move in to document its state. 

Garbage disposal

Are renters responsible for garbage?

Timely garbage disposal is crucial for sanitary living conditions. Most cities and villages provide garbage pick up and waste disposal services for a reasonable fee. Ordinarily, tenants are responsible for this fee through a lease clause, or as a part of the rent payment. If the area of your residence does not have regular trash disposal services, you should work around an arrangement with your landlord and contract a third-party provider. 

Are renters responsible for septic tanks?

Septic tanks are uncommon for big apartment buildings and pertain to single-standing houses. It is a rather archaic system. Inappropriate use of these onsite sewage facilities can significantly shorten its lifespan and cause damage. Septic tanks are a vulnerable part of this sewage infrastructure that requires special attention from residents. For this reason, many landlords include a separate provision in the lease regarding the septic system, but it is hard to enforce. The general rule to prolong the well-being of the septic tank is to treat grease, oils, and solid wastes as trash, and not to wash them down the drain. The maintenance of the sewage system, such as tank pumping and septic treatment, is the responsibility of the landlord, but the tenant can be charged for negligent use. 

Are renters responsible for clogged drains?

As it was stated above, the landlord is responsible for safe and habitable conditions, that include proper functioning of plumbing and sewage systems. The landlord has to make certain that plumbing follows the building ordinances and housing codes, and ensure its proper functioning. If the clogged drains are caused by flawed plumbing parts or defective design, the landlord is fully responsible for the repairs. In cases, when drains are clogged by negligent use, the tenant is responsible for the plumbing repairs. 

Are renters responsible for HOA fees?

There are no set practices regarding this matter on the local and state level. Thus, it has to be defined in the lease, and the designated party would be responsible for paying HOA fees. In general, landlords usually pay for the HOA fees themselves, since any delays and missed payment is a reason for HOA to initiate the foreclosure of the house. Usually, the landlord factor in the HOA fees into the rent payment. Alternatively, if this was stipulated in the lease agreement, the tenant would pay this fee directly to the association.

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