Today, we’re talking about maintenance and its responsibilities.

Maintenance on a property can often be a tricky topic in regards to who is responsible for paying to have repairs done. Knowing what a landlord or a tenant is responsible for is important. As a landlord, when you move a tenant into a property in Washington State, you are responsible for maintaining that property, keeping it habitable and fixing anything that may break that wasn’t caused by the tenant’s misuse.

There are some exceptions to that general rule that you will need to be aware of.

Maintaining a Rental Property: Cosmetic Issues

Cosmetic issues in the property can include things like a worn carpet, fading paint, chipped trim, and things along those lines. You are not required to have those things fixed during the lease term. Another thing you can add to the cosmetic category would be if something is working and functioning properly, but the tenant would like it to work better. For example, if the ice machine is working and making ice, but the tenant would like it to make ice faster, then you are not required to make such a repair as a landlord.

Maintenance Issues Identified in Your Lease

If there are things that have been specifically identified in the original lease that the landlord has stated would not be repaired, there is no requirement to do so. Think about the example with the ice machine. If that ice machine does not work when a tenant moves in, and the lease specifically states that it does not work and that it would not be fixed, then the landlord is not required to fix it. The tenant knew beforehand it was broken and would not be fixed. You have to be careful with this, because there are some standard things that tenants in general expect when they move into a property. If you put too many limitations on what will be repaired, you could find yourself in trouble or stuck with a disgruntled tenant who wants to move out.

Damage that Turns into Waste

Waste happens when a tenant does not report an issue in a timely fashion and more damage results from that. For example, there might be a small leak in the sink that could have been repaired fairly easily at a low cost, but the tenant let it go for a couple of months. That small leak may have led to a huge mess. It might lead to standing water or mold resulting in a much bigger and more costly problem. The tenant would be responsible for this charge and for fixing it because it could have and should have been taken care of months earlier.

These are just a few examples of how to distribute the cost of maintenance. As with most things, it comes down to expectations in the beginning. You want to have clear expectations about what the tenant is responsible for and what the landlord will take care of fixing. Keeping that good communication open is important to the success of you and your property.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us at SJA Property Management.