The Warranty Of Habitability And Property Management
Whether the lease spells it out or not, every lease for a residential property comes with a warranty of habitability. This means that the property manager is responsible for keeping the place in good enough shape for someone to live in it. The roof needs to not leak, the plumbing should work, the electrical system should be safe to use, the heater should work, and so on. You can hold the renter responsible for minor repairs like keeping the smoke detector charged and replacing light bulbs, but it’s up to you to keep the vital systems working.
Some Maintenance Examples
The main way you stick to the warranty of habitability is by making sure the property meets building and safety requirements. These codes can vary based on the state and city requirements, and San Francisco, CA has its own unique building codes you should familiarize yourself with. Still, all building codes cover basics like:
- Safety inspections that cover the structure of the building, the plumbing, the electrical system, and the fire preparedness. These inspections can involve checking the foundation for cracks, looking for leaks and mold growth, testing the wiring for shorts and breaks, and making sure the building has the right number of carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers.
- Repairs on any vital systems that need it. You’re responsible whether you spot it during an inspection or whether the tenant finds it first.
- Maintaining essential services like gas, electricity, water, and garbage collection. Even if your tenant pays the utility bills, you have to make sure the utility connections work.
Your Grace Period Can Vary
Property managers get some leeway when it comes to how long you can wait between hearing about a problem and fixing it, but it can vary based on the situation and the state. The basic grace period is usually 30 days, but it gets shorter if it’s something important like a busted furnace during winter or a broken water main. Going beyond this number could result in fines, damages paid to the tenant, or it could even void the lease.
Possible Renter Responses
If you aren’t keeping up your end of the lease by sticking to the warranty of habitability, your renter may have the right to take action. For instance, renters in Connecticut can withhold rent until the repair is complete if they give their property manager written notice. Renters in California can pay for a repair themselves and then deduct the repair costs from one monthly rent payment. However, if the tenant (or a guest of the tenant) causes the damage, it’s completely up to them to pay for the repairs.
The rules surrounding property management can be very complicated, but the warranty of habitability is part of your lease agreement whether you put it in writing or not. If you own or manage the property, it’s up to you to make sure someone can comfortably live in it. You can look up the building code in San Francisco, CA for specifics, but you should remember that bad things can happen if you don’t live up to this essential warranty.