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From the moment a landlord comes to an agreement with a tenant, there are certain responsibilities that he or she has to meet. Though they vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the typical landlord duties are encompassed within three main concepts. First and most obvious of the landlord responsibilities: the landlord must fully deliver the premises to the tenant by the time the lease begins. The landlord must also allow the tenant to enjoy their home without interference — called the right to “quiet enjoyment.” Last, the landlord must continually make sure the residence is a suitable place for someone to live.
The landlord must make sure that the premises are delivered to the tenant in a timely manner with the terms of the lease. This means that essentially, there must not be any bar to the new tenant taking residence in the home at the point the lease begins. Typically, this is not a problem unless there is a holdover tenant that refuses to leave. In most jurisdictions, it is the responsibility of the landlord to evict that holdover tenant to make room for the new tenant.
The tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment encompasses the second group of landlord responsibilities. This means that the landlord may not interfere with the tenant’s reasonable use of the property through either direct interference or lack of upkeep causing inability to enjoy the premises. For instance, in a cold climate, leaving the heat in disrepair may be considered a violation of the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment. It is the duty of the landlord to remedy these conditions as they are brought to his or her attention.
The implied warranty of habitability may be the most important of landlord responsibilities as it reflects the safety of the premises for the tenant and any of his or her guests. The implied warranty of habitability imposes on the landlord a responsibility to make sure the residence is fit to be a home. This means that the residence must meet all local building codes and be considered structurally sound. Further, the landlord must provide regular maintenance of broken fixtures and any necessary utilities, such as plumbing.
The remedies for a breach of these landlord responsibilities vary depending on the locale, but there are a few commonalities across jurisdictions. If the landlord responsibilities are not fulfilled, the tenant may typically pay for the maintenance on his or her own and withhold rent to cover the costs. Additionally, many jurisdictions provide for statutory damages, often three times the cost of rent, for violations of the warranty of habitability or the quiet enjoyment of the premises.
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