Domain Property Management Blog

How to Maintain Your Rental Property

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When managing a rental property, it is crucial for landlords to keep the property well-maintained and in good condition, meeting the standards of habitability. However, property maintenance is not solely the landlord’s responsibility—it must be shared equally with the tenants. 

Clearly defining these responsibilities not only ensures the property remains in good condition but also fosters a positive relationship between the landlord and tenant. Keeping your rental in great condition helps avoid complaints from your tenants, and reduces property vacancies. 


Here is a comprehensive guide on the legal requirements and the optional maintenance tasks that can be delegated to tenants.

Landlord’s Property Maintenance Responsibilities

Landlords have a crucial role in maintaining their rental properties to ensure they provide a safe and habitable environment for tenants. The specifics of these responsibilities can vary by Chicago laws and the terms of the lease agreement, but generally, they encompass several key areas:


Compliance with Health and Safety Laws


Landlords must ensure that the property complies with all applicable local, state, and federal health and safety regulations.

This includes maintaining structural integrity, ensuring that electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems are in safe working order, and that the property is free from hazardous materials like lead paint and asbestos, unless properly contained and disclosed.

Repairs and Maintenance

Landlords are responsible for keeping the rental unit in a good state of repair, which means addressing normal wear and tear and fixing any damage that affects the livability of the property. 

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This includes:

Roof, walls, and structural elements: Ensuring the exterior of the property is intact and weatherproof.


Water and heating systems: Maintaining all plumbing and heating systems in working order, including hot water supply and adequate heating during colder months.
Electrical systems: Ensuring all electrical wiring, outlets, and fixtures are safe and functional.


Appliances and fixtures: Repairing or replacing provided appliances and fixtures when they break down due to normal use.

Pest Control

In many jurisdictions, landlords are required to address infestations of pests like rodents, cockroaches, and bedbugs before a tenant moves in. The responsibility during tenancy can depend on the local laws and the lease agreement, particularly in determining whether a pest problem is due to landlord neglect or tenant behavior.

Common Areas

Landlords are responsible for the upkeep and safety of common areas such as hallways, stairwells, and shared facilities like laundry rooms and recreational areas. This includes keeping these areas clean, well-lit, and free from hazards.

Garbage Disposal Facilities

Provision of proper garbage bins and ensuring regular disposal is often a landlord's responsibility, unless explicitly agreed otherwise in the lease. This helps maintain sanitary conditions and complies with local health regulations.

Emergency Repairs

Landlords must provide a way for tenants to report emergencies and must respond to these reports promptly. This includes urgent situations like burst pipes, heating failures in winter, or broken locks on exterior doors.

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Security

Ensuring the property's security measures, such as locks, security gates, and window latches, are in good working order at the start of a tenancy and maintained throughout.

Legal Updates and Compliance

Landlords must stay updated with any changes in property law, building codes, and tenant rights to ensure they continue to meet all legal obligations. This includes providing tenants with required notices and disclosures, such as those about the presence of lead paint or pest treatments.

Legal Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities

Legally, tenants are primarily responsible for maintaining the rental property in a condition similar to the state it was in at the start of their tenancy. This includes a set of standard responsibilities:

 

  • Cleanliness: Tenants must keep the premises reasonably clean. This responsibility covers routine cleaning tasks such as disposing of rubbish properly, cleaning after personal use of communal areas, and maintaining basic hygiene standards inside the rental unit.
  • Trash Disposal: Proper disposal of garbage is not just a sanitary requirement but often also a municipal one. Tenants must adhere to local garbage collection schedules and regulations, ensuring waste is sorted and set out correctly.
  • Proper Usage of Facilities: All fixtures and appliances provided by the landlord should be used appropriately. Tenants are expected to operate all plumbing, electrical, heating, and other systems as intended, without causing unnecessary damage.

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  • Damage Reporting: Tenants are legally obligated to inform the landlord about any damage that occurs to the property. Prompt reporting allows for timely repairs and reduces the potential for exacerbated issues that can lead to larger repair bills.
  • Damage Costs: If damage to the property results from the tenant's abuse or neglect, the tenant is usually responsible for the repair costs. This does not extend to normal wear and tear, which remains the landlord's responsibility.

Optional Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities

Optional responsibilities refer to tasks that a landlord can choose to delegate to the tenant but are not legally required to do so. These arrangements should be explicitly stated in the lease agreement to avoid any misunderstandings. Here are common optional responsibilities:

 

  • Lawn Care and Landscaping: Depending on the property type and location, landlords might require tenants to maintain the yard. This can include mowing the lawn, weeding gardens, and clearing snow. Alternatively, landlords may handle this themselves or hire a third party.
  • Minor Repairs: While major repairs should typically be handled by the landlord or a professional, minor repairs such as changing light bulbs or smoke detector batteries could be assigned to tenants.
  • Pest Control: In some cases, especially in single-family homes or townhouses, tenants might be asked to undertake minor pest control measures like setting traps for rodents or using spray for ants.
  • Painting: Some landlords allow tenants to paint the interior of their units, provided they use neutral colors or repaint it back to the original color upon moving out.
  • HVAC Maintenance: Tenants may be asked to replace air filters regularly, which helps maintain air quality and efficiency of the heating and cooling systems.

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Best Practices for Landlords

To manage these responsibilities effectively, landlords should consider the following best practices:

 

  • Clear Lease Agreements: Clearly outline all tenant responsibilities in the lease agreement. Provide detailed explanations of what is expected to avoid any ambiguity or disputes.
  • Regular Inspections: Conduct scheduled inspections to ensure that the property is being well-maintained. This helps catch issues before they become significant problems.
  • Provide Resources: If expecting tenants to perform maintenance tasks, provide them with the necessary tools and resources. For example, supplying the correct type of air filters or garden tools might encourage better compliance.
  • Open Communication: Maintain open lines of communication with tenants. This approach helps in quickly addressing any concerns about maintenance and ensures tenants feel supported in their roles.

Bottom Line

Understanding the landlord and tenant maintenance responsibilities is essential. It not only protects the property but also contributes to a transparent and trusting landlord-tenant relationship. Contact a professional property management company like Domain Property Management if you need help.



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