Who’s Responsible for Repairs – Tenants or Landlords - article banner

When the garbage disposal in your Boston rental property jams, who is responsible for fixing it? What about the batteries in a garage door opener? Who takes care of the landscaping and pest control?

These are common questions that both landlords and tenants ask when they’re navigating a new relationship that revolves around a property.

Maintaining a rental property requires a good partnership between owners, tenants, and vendors. If you’re working with a Boston property management company, you won’t have to worry about the process or the particulars because you’ve got a team of expert property managers taking care of most maintenance issues. But when you’re an independent landlord wondering how to approach the maintenance and repairs needed at your property, you’ll need to know what your responsibilities are and what you can expect from your tenants.

Take a look at this overview of the typical repairs you’ll encounter during the leasing period. We have some advice on who should be responsible for them, based on our own experience and best practices. This is also a good time to remind you that a strong lease agreement is important, and so is a reliable network of licensed and insured vendors and contractors.

Create a Detailed Boston Lease Agreement that Addresses Repairs

The lease agreement you sign with your tenants is one of the most important documents you’ll encounter. This is where most questions should be answered. It’s the legal document that will most likely protect you from any disputes, conflicts, and even potential lawsuits from disgruntled tenants. Without a legally binding and compliant lease agreement, you will not be able to hold your tenants accountable or protect the integrity of your rental home.

Even more important for the purposes of today’s blog, a lease agreement establishes who is responsible for each maintenance and repair issue. In your lease agreement, you must include who’s going to be responsible for certain things.

You can’t expect a rental experience where no repairs are ever needed at your Boston rental home. Things will break. Light bulbs will burn out and air filters will need to be changed. The heat may go out in the winter, and you’ll have to decide who is responsible for lawn care and snow removal. You may have some assumptions about who is going to take care of these things. Your tenants likely have their own assumptions.

Keep expectations consistent by putting these things in the lease agreement. A good lease will specifically state who is responsible for maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and upkeep.

Be specific.

These details are necessary because your tenants cannot live in a house that has repair issues. You need to ensure habitability and safety issues are taken care of right away and even if these things are not the tenant’s responsibility, they’ll need to know the process for reporting them to you.

Landlord Repair Responsibilities in Boston Rental Homes

Landlords have a responsibility to provide a rental home that’s safe and habitable. Everything inside that home must work. Tenants cannot safely move into or reside in a home that has broken windows and a lack of running water.

You have a responsibility to conduct a complete inspection before the move-in date so you can be sure everything is working. Not only will this ensure the tenants are happy with the property they’ve chosen, it will also document the condition of your investment home.

You are responsible for repairing and maintaining all of the major functions and systems in the property. If the heating stops working or the electricity doesn’t turn on, you’ll be called to respond to those problems, and you’ll be the party who pays for the repairs. You’ll also need to repair and replace any appliances that you provided with the property. If a tenant moves in with their own washing machine, you don’t have to replace it when it breaks down. But, you do have to repair or replace the washer that you provided with the home.

You’ll also have to respond to any emergencies. If the tenant calls because a toilet is leaking and the house is flooding, you’ll be responsible for responding to that emergency and making any repairs that are needed to keep the home habitable.

Another landlord responsibility is safety. Make sure your rental home has a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector. Check the locks on all doors and windows. Ensure there’s adequate exterior lighting and a safe route from the driveway to the home.

General wear and tear repairs are also the responsibility of Boston landlords. When you’re conducting your move-out inspection after a tenant leaves, you’ll probably notice scuff marks and spots in the carpet from where furniture was placed. You’ll find nail holes in the walls and extra lint in the dryer hoses. You’ll have to pay for these repairs. Tenants aren’t required to pay for anything except damage that they caused at the property or lease violations that resulted in extra expenses.

Typical Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities

Perhaps the most important tenant responsibility when it comes to repairs is notifying you when something is broken or in need of attention. You want to know right away, even if you’re not going to be able to make a minor repair for a few days. Reinforce this responsibility with your residents.

Deferred and unreported maintenance items will only become more expensive and difficult to fix. In our experience, we’ve seen some tenants who are hesitant to report issues because they don’t want to be disruptive or they worry they’ll be blamed or even charged for the repair. Put these fears to rest and create a relationship where your tenants feel comfortable communicating with you when something goes wrong at the property. It protects the condition of your home and it’s an important responsibility to drive home with your residents.

While landlords are typically responsible for most repairs and replacements, there are some specific occasions where you can expect your tenants to take responsibility.

It’s a tenant’s responsibility to keep the property clean. We’ve said this before: everyone has a different standard of cleanliness, but you can reasonably expect your tenants to keep the property clean enough that there isn’t a problem with pests, insects, or trash inside the home.

Tenants are responsible for changing air filters regularly and light bulbs when they burn out. If a battery needs replacing in a remote device, the tenants should buy the battery rather than expecting their landlord to do it.

Minor repairs that are easily and safely managed. If a screen comes off a window, the tenant can put it back into place.

Damage that’s caused by a tenant or a tenant’s guest.

If your rental property is in an HOA, your tenant is also responsible for following those rules and regulations. This isn’t necessarily a repair issue, but if the HOA sends a letter about the grass being too long and the tenants are responsible for the lawn according to your lease agreement, any fines or penalties levied from the HOA should be the responsibility of the tenant.

Landscaping and pest control are typically the responsibility of the landlord, but we have seen cases wherein the tenant is responsible for those services. Most landlords are particular about how their lawn is maintained, so they’re likely to hire a professional service and then include the cost in the rental amount. If you have tenants who are keen to mow the lawn, shovel the snow, and tend a garden, you may want to include those responsibilities in the lease agreement.

Putting Together a Network of Vendors and Contractors

A reliable network of licensed and insured vendors and contractors is essential. A handyman will be helpful too, so you have someone on call who can run over and diagnose a problem or quickly reset the garbage disposal.

Develop relationships with an outstanding team of partners who stand by their work, charge competitive rates, and provide preventative services as well as immediate responses. At the very least, you’ll need a good plumber, an electrician, a roofer, an HVAC tech, and a team of people who can provide lawn care, snow removal, cleaning, painting, and flooring.

How Can Boston Property Management Help?

It doesn’t take long for owners to realize that maintaining a rental home requires more planning, budgeting, and work than expected. It’s an excellent reason to work with a Boston property management team. Not only do property managers have experience maintaining homes, we also have a network of vendors, a system for reporting repair issues and working with tenants, and an online platform that allows owners to track the progress of their repairs.

As property managers, we’re focused on preventative maintenance so we can keep your costs down. We take out time when we’re inspecting properties, and we communicate well with tenants so they understand their responsibilities when it comes to keeping your property clean, functioning, and well-maintained. We have all the systems in place that you need.

Lease agreementWe are happy to help you with the routine, emergency, and preventative maintenance of your rental property. Our process is effective and efficient, and we work with a great team of repair professionals. Please contact us at Platinum Realty Group when you need expert help from Boston property managers.