It can be overwhelming to run a property management business and be a landlord. This job comes with a lot of responsibility as well as a significant amount of liability. To help keep landlord-tenant conflicts to a minimum, here are four rules to follow ensure that you are being a responsible landlord.
1. Provide Notice to the Tenant Before Entering
Tenants have a right to their own privacy. As a landlord, you must respect that. Landlords invading privacy is one of the most common reasons for landlord-tenant disputes.
Landlords cannot simply enter a tenant's home at any time that they wish unless it is an emergency, such as a fire or a flood. In most states, including here in California, the law dictates that landlords give a minimum of a 24-hour advance written notice to the tenant. This advance notice is required for things like repairs or showing the home or apartment to a prospective tenant.
2. Make Necessary Repairs
In addition to not entering a tenant's property without advance written notice, you must maintain the premises. As a landlord, you have a responsibility to provide and maintain housing that is habitable. At its core, this consists of ensuring your property offers heat, water, and electricity and is structurally safe and sanitary.
When a tenant requests necessary repairs to their property, make sure to fix the problems. You should also stay on top of routine maintenance throughout the year.
If you fail to maintain a tenant's property, you are opening yourself up to a potential dispute. Plus, depending on the situation, the tenant could be able to repair the issue themselves and deduct any costs that they incurred from their rent or possibly withhold rent altogether until the issue is resolved.
In some cases, tenants may even be able to move out without being required to give a notice. Tenants could also sue you for any injuries that they sustained due to substandard conditions.
3. Ensure Each Property and Tenant Is Protected From Criminal Activity
Another responsibility of the landlord is to ensure that their property is free from any criminal activity so their tenants are protected. As a general rule, most cities and states require that units have a deadbolt and locking doorknob to properly secure the property. To further increase the safety of your tenants, you could consider installing a sliding chain lock at the top of the door.
If the area that your properties are located in has a medium-to-high crime rate or the crime rate has been on the rise recently, consider increased security measures to protect your tenants. This may include adding bars on first-story windows, trimming tall hedges, installing exterior lights, etc. to increase visibility and discourage any criminal activity.
Because you can be held responsible for any illegal activity that takes place on your own property, such as drug dealing, carefully screen tenants. Make sure that you pay close attention to criminal histories, credit reports, and other indicators. This will help you locate good tenants for your properties and minimize the chances of criminal activity occurring on premises.
4. Resolve Disputes Quickly and Efficiently
Whenever a dispute arises between you and one of your tenants, try to resolve it on your own without contacting a lawyer. Schedule an informal meeting with the tenant and discuss the problem. If this does not work, consider mediation with a neutral third-party individual. In some cases, this can be done at no cost to you with a publicly funded program.
If the dispute cannot be resolved between you and the tenant on your own, contact Hassen & Associates. Our law firm is experienced in dealing with landlord-tenant disputes and we can provide you with the legal representation that you deserve in your time of need.