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Tenants are responsible for these five maintenance repairs

Maintenance is an issue all property owners must face, and it’s likely going to be the focus of quite a few conversations between landlords and tenants. Put simply, things break, get dirty and need to be fixed. Yet no one really enjoys that last part. 

We’ve blogged before about the balancing act landlords and tenants must face regarding responsibilities for things like landscaping or painting. For the broader list of maintenance needs, depending on how your lease is constructed, pretty much anything could fall under landlord purview if you so choose. (Conversely, it’s often illegal to require renters to bear the full responsibility for maintenance.) However, in general, you can leave the following five items to your tenants. 

1. Routine cleaning

If your tenant wants to live in a clean unit, it is his or her responsibility to make that happen. Obviously, you should ensure the place is spotless before move-in, but once the lease is signed, cleanliness comes down to how elbow grease the tenant is willing to invest (or how much money he is willing to pay a cleaning service). This also means that tenants should foot the bill for most cleaning supplies, including soaps, towels, dust pads and air fresheners. 

2. Taking out the trash

Similarly, tenants should take out their own trash. If you manage an apartment unit, it’s okay to require tenants to load their garbage to the unit’s dumpster. Conversely, if your property is a single-family home, you’ll need to alert tenants to the trash pick-up schedule and require them to stick to it. Note that most landlords will pass any collection fees to tenants through the lease.

3. Removing snow

This one is trickier, especially in places like North Carolina where snow only becomes a problem once or twice a year. Typically, though, if you own a multi-unit property, you are responsible for snow removal and any other safety precautions such as salting the sidewalks. If it’s a single-family home, you can usually ask the tenant to take care of cleaning the driveway. This is definitely something you’ll want to spell out in your lease, however, to avoid any potential disputes. 

4. Appliance upkeep

This falls in line with “routine cleaning,” but it expands to include general appliance care. Things like cleaning the oven, removing food from the bottom of the dishwasher, and changing the dryer filter generally fall under the tenant’s responsibility. The one exception is air-conditioning filters, which landlords typically pay to replace. 

5. Quick communication

Larger maintenance issues, such as plumbing problems, smoke detector replacement, or pest invasions fall to the landlord to amend. However, the tenant is responsible for letting the landlord know about these problems in the first place, and in a timely manner. Routine check-ins are not a bad idea, but as a landlord you should not be asking your tenant every week if there are any maintenance issues to fix. They need to take the initiative and keep you informed.

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