Landlord Rules Regarding Rental Property

According to Nolo, landlords should make necessary repairs to rental units to avoid problems with tenants. Heating, plumbing and cooling should be addressed within 24 hours, and heating and cooling are especially important with extreme winter or summer temperatures. However, landlords must provide written notice of intent to enter the premises 24 hours in advance unless there is a serious emergency such as a fire or a burst pipe. Landlords are required by law to maintain habitable dwellings. This means that weatherproofing, water, heat, electricity, plumbing and sanitary water are all necessary. Also, the building should be structurally safe. Housing and plumbing codes in different municipalities have their own standards for ventilation, light and wiring. Most cities require smoke detectors in every home as well. Some cities have rules for locks and keys of rental units. A local housing authority or fire department should have a detailed list of information. When landlords do not make necessary repairs after a tenant reports a legitimate problem, the tenant has several choices to make. Although rules vary from state to state, the choices typically include the following:

  • The tenant can hire someone to fix the problem and deduct the amount from his or her rent.
  • The tenant may choose to pay less rent without remedying the problem.
  • The tenant may withhold all rent until the problem is resolved by the landlord.
  • The tenant may break the lease and move out.
  • The tenant may call a building inspector who can order the landlord to repair the unit.

Tenants also have the right to sue landlords for rent refunds. However, they may not always win these lawsuits, and it is usually too expensive for many people to retain an attorney. If there are severe substandard conditions in the unit, the tenant may sue for everything from emotional distress to discomfort. If a landlord cannot afford to fix a problem immediately, he or she is better off extending an offer to the tenant. For example, the landlord can offer to reduce the next month’s rent to half the regular cost or offer to deduct the amount of the parts to repair something from the tenant’s rent. If the tenant is able to fix the problem and parts are cheaper than hiring a professional, this is a good way to save money and keep the tenant happy. Always remember to provide ample notice at least 24 hours in advance of entering a property for a non-emergency issue. Failing to do so could cause legal problems for a landlord.

Wallace & Wallace

Wallace & Wallace is an independent insurance broker, serving clients in Maryland, DC and Virginia. If you have questions about Landlord insurance, Rental property insurance, Lessor’s Risk insurance or any other type of insurance, contact us at 301.320.5800 or