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5 Crucial Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities

female wiping the wooden window

A good landlord provides a safe, habitable environment for their tenants.

This means it’s the property owner’s responsibility to provide access to clean water, heating during winter, and also make sure that the building is structurally sound and free from pest infestations.

As the landlord or property manager, it is also your responsibility to take care of major repairs and maintenance issues in a rental property.

You can track your property’s maintenance schedule using Lodge’s free self-maintenance software.

However, some of the day-to-day cleaning and maintenance concerns fall on a tenant’s shoulders. Tenants are also responsible for reporting any damages and maintenance issues on time.

In many cases, property owners will have a tenant’s property maintenance responsibilities outlined in the lease agreement.

If a tenant fails to keep up with their maintenance responsibilities, it’s within a landlord’s rights to charge them for damages or even evict them.

Although a tenant’s maintenance responsibilities might vary from one area to another, the general tenant duties include:

Waste Disposal

It’s up to tenants to keep their homes clean and sanitary. They are required to dispose of garbage using waste disposal equipment and services provided by either the landlord or local authorities.

In many places, the local municipality charges landlords a waste disposal fee, which they, in turn, pass on to tenants through rent or extra fees.

Messy tenants can be a nightmare to landlords and property managers.

By keeping their rental and the rest of the property dirty, they can even bring down both the real and perceived value of your rental. Some of them can even end up costing you thousands of dollars!

Dirty living conditions cause real damage, such as leaving stains or rotting wooden surfaces. Additionally, a dirty house is likely to have bug or rodent infestations – making it harder to find subsequent tenants.

Landlords don’t have much say over their tenant’s cleanliness in the privacy of their homes. That’s unless you have reason to believe that their unsanitary habits violate health or fire codes.

You can also interfere when a tenant’s cleaning behaviours, or lack thereof, cause real dangers to themselves or others.

You can mandate dirty tenants to clean up or kick them out at the end of their lease.

If they refuse to clean up when moving out, you can hire a cleaning company. Deduct the cost from their deposit if your lease agreement allows it.

Pest Control

It’s the landlord’s responsibility to keep the rental property free from pest infestations when it’s vacant.

The landlord should correct any structural problems that attract and allow bugs and rodent into the rental.

But once a tenant moves in, they assume part of this responsibility. Tenants’ cleaning habits play a key role in attracting or preventing pest and rodent infestations.

Some of the pests you might have to deal with in a rental property include (and are not limited to):

  • Rats and mice
  • Ants and termites
  • Birds and bats
  • Squirrels 
  • Cockroaches 
  • Fleas
  • Spiders
  • Possums 
  • Snakes
  • Wasps

As a landlord or property manager, you should always spot any major maintenance issues that might lead to pest infestations.

However, you can hold tenants responsible for pests brought by uncleanliness (such as failing to properly dispose of garbage), or those they might have brought to the property (such as fleas from pets or bed bugs from furniture).

Since many territories across Australia have unclear legislation on pest control, you should include a pest control clause in your lease agreement. That way, it will be easier to determine responsibility for pest control in your rental property.

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Yard Maintenance

Who doesn’t love a house with a garden?

During hot summer months, a beautiful garden is an asset for tenants who love entertaining guests.

However, maintaining a garden can be hard work. Inevitably, unless the lease agreement is clear on this responsibility, yard maintenance can be a source of disputes for landlords and tenants.

Major yard work such as trimming trees or hedging is a responsibility that often falls squarely on a landlord’s or property manager’s shoulders. This is especially the case when it comes to communal spaces in the rental property.

But tenants can also be responsible for smaller landscaping and yardwork concerns if it’s stated in the lease agreement.

Tenants are mostly responsible for regular maintenance tasks such as:

  • Mowing lawns
  • Weeding
  • Watering
  • Picking ripe fruits
  • Trimming small shrubs and climbers
  • Raking up dry leaves and twigs

When a tenant has exclusive use of the yard, it is often assumed that they’re automatically responsible for its maintenance.

Unkempt premises are not only an eyesore, but they can also pose a health risk by attracting pests and rodents. Additionally, overgrown grass and trees can draw the attention of local authorities, resulting in fines. It’s therefore in both the landlord’s and tenant’s interest to keep up with a rental’s yard work.

To avoid any disputes over yard work, it is prudent to include relevant clauses in the lease agreement.

Mould Prevention

Fueled by damp and poorly-ventilated conditions, mould is a toxigenic substance that can grow inside homes and cause health problems for tenants.

Exposure to mould has been linked to increased risk of health problems such as asthma, allergies, chronic sinus infections, and even depression.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), many of the global 300 million cases of childhood asthma can be attributed to mould and indoor dampness.

Mould tends to grow in places such as cabinets, basements, crawl spaces, drywalls, or areas with water damage.

Mould prevention and clean up can be a thorny issue for landlords and tenants. But in general, it is the landlord’s job to fix any plumbing or leaks that can create a damp environment.

Liability for mould cleanup can also be a tenant’s responsibility if the mould developed as a result of their poor hygiene habits and neglectful behaviour.

Here are some measures tenants can take to prevent mould:

  • Maintain proper ventilation – Advise your tenants to open windows and doors to allow in fresh air when the weather permits. They should also turn on exhaust fans, especially when doing activities such as bathing, showering, cooking, doing laundry or drying clothes. 
  • Reduce humidity – Caution tenants to limit the use of humidifiers. They should also limit the number of fish tanks and indoor plants in their rental home.
  • Control moisture and dampness – Inform tenants that they should let you know whenever there are water leaks and plumbing problems so you can have them fixed promptly. These include burst water pipes, leaking roofs, leaking taps, backed-up toilets and sinks, and blocked rain gutters. If water gets into their home, they should mop it up completely and ensure that any water-damaged carpets and building materials are dried or discarded.

Although prevention is better than having to deal with mould, if it has already formed in the home, the next step is to clean it up.

Here are some tips to help tenants with mould clean up:

  • Use a mild detergent or vinegar diluted in water (4 parts vinegar and 1 part water) for routine cleanup of mouldy surfaces. 
  • If the mould is stubborn and you can’t discard the item, clean it using a diluted bleach solution (250mls bleach in 4 litres of water). Tenants should wear protective equipment and make sure the area is well-ventilated when cleaning with bleach.
  • Dry the surface thoroughly after mould clean up.
  • Hire professional cleaners for absorbent materials – such as carpets – once they’re contaminated with mould.

Proper Appliance Use and Care

In many modern upmarket areas, landlords provide their tenants with some household appliances. These appliances might include dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, toasters, and so on.

Such appliances won’t last long if tenants don’t take proper care of them.

The law generally assumes that if a landlord has provided certain appliances, they are responsible for their regular maintenance and repair.

But in many instances, to protect themselves and save money, landlords include a clause in the lease agreement stating that appliance maintenance is the tenant’s responsibility.

Tenants are especially expected to pay when damage to appliances is clearly the result of their negligence.

Final Word

Because they’re the ones living on the premises, tenants naturally bear some maintenance responsibilities.

They’re also in a position to notice and report any major maintenance concerns that fall under the responsibility of the landlord or property manager.

You can hold tenants liable for damages that wouldn’t have occurred if they reported an issue on time.

As the landlord or property manager, it’s your duty to perform regular inspections. This will give you the chance to see if the tenant is living up to their end of the bargain.

Document any damages that you have to charge tenants for- if possible with photographic proof.

Most importantly, be clear in your lease agreement on what the tenant’s maintenance responsibilities are.

To draw up leases and schedule routine property maintenance, you can use Lodge’s property self-management software. Try it for free today!

Photo: Freepik