I still remember some of the first calls that I got as a new landlord back in 2018 from tenants. Being the first property that I ever bought, I didn't actually realize how much maintenance a house required.
I was so focused on the business at the time that I didn't prioritize property maintenance because it just never crossed my mind.
I guess I just thought that it would take care of itself, right?
Well some of those calls were real eye openers. Realizing how much actually went into maintaining the property to make sure that it was in tip top shape, was an important realization that changed the way I viewed real estate.
"My lightbulb is out."
"Marc, the lawn is overgrown. Someone needs to come cut it."
"Who's shovelling the walkway this winter."
While some of these may have been valid concerns, I was a naive kid at the time so I just went ahead and took care of basically everything.
Only months later did I realize that both the landlord and the tenants each have maintenance responsibilities.
In fact, I wish I had known this at the time but tenants actually have a number of responsibilities that go beyond just paying rent. By understanding what these responsibilities are, you as a landlord can be better prepared to deal with your responsibilities and can save costs by offloading some of these expenses onto your tenants.
It's also a good thing for everyone to understand the responsibilities to set out expectations for the lease agreement.
While some of these may be obvious, let's walk through some of the common questions that I get from other landlords and some of the requests that I've received from tenants.
Keep in mind that some of these items might be included as part of the tenants existing lease or annexes. Just to be sure, you may want to double check the lease to make sure that there aren't any additional conditions.
Let's start off by covering the Ontario Provincial Lease that we highly recommend you use when signing new leases. Other provincial and state governments should also have standard lease templates that should follow very similar formats and include most of the same sections.
Generally, most rental units are painted in neutral colours. shades of white, grey and beige are common sights because they are easy to maintain, are preferred by the most people and match basically any theme.
That being said, there are sometime tenants who may ask to repaint their unit to make it feel more homey.
While it may be easier to simply say "no", I have actually had great experiences with tenants painting units but there are a couple rules that I set out as part of the "go ahead".
Any damages caused by the paint have to be repaired. For instance, if they get paint on the floors or on the trim, they are responsible with cleaning up those issues.
I have to approved the colour. Again, this goes back to sticking to neutral colours for future potential tenants.
There is also some responsiblity on the landlord for maintaining paint. Your responsible with maintaining the safety and habitability of the property which means painting the walls when they become damaged or unsanitary.
Additionally, some older buildings may still have lead paint. In that case, the landlord may be required to repaint the walls because it could be considered a safety hazard in some cases.
In the case where a tenant paints anything without the consent of the landlord, most leases will allow the landlord to chargeback the costs of repainting the walls since the tenant broke the lease.
While the landlord is responsible with maintaining common areas like the hallways, elevators, staircases and etc, the tenants do have a responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of their unit.
There is a big difference between maintaining tidiness and good hygiene. One is optional while the other is required because it can negatively affect both the property and other tenants.
When a lease ends, preparing the unit for the new tenant is the responsibility of the landlord, however, there is some onus on the person who moved out as well.
The tenant must leave the unit in a reasonably clean state but that doesn't mean pristine as most landlords would hope. I highly recommend scheduling an end of lease inspection because it gives you an opportunity to walk through the unit and make sure that there are no damages, make sure that it is reasonably clean and finally get the keys.
The landlord cannot charge you for a deep cleaning or any cleaning service unless the unit is beyond any reasonable expectation of cleanliness.
In Ontario, the landlord is typically responsible for lawn care, however, there may be cases where the responsibility is on the tenant.
In general, it's safe to assume that it is the on the landlord, unless one of the two following criteria apply.
The property is a single-family dwelling and the tenant is the sole lessee.
There is a provision included in the lease agreement that states that the tenant is responsible for lawn care.
As for landlords who own multiple properties or multi-families, we always recommend that you make a separate agreement with one of the tenants for the lawn care.
While in most cases, it is safe to assume that any of the light bulbs in the unit are the responsibility of the tenant, there may be cases where the landlord bears responsibility.
Unless otherwise included as a condition in the lease or as part of a separate annex, the tenant is responsible for changing fixture lighting in the unit.
This could also apply to exterior lighting in the case of a single-family dwelling where the tenant is the sole renter.
In multi-families, any common areas such as most exterior lighting (other than on a private deck for instance), hallways, utility rooms and etc are the responsibility of the landlord.
Appliance lighting is the only case in a unit that will most likely be the responsibility of the landlord. They are since they will typically require a service call as they are more difficult to replace than other lights.
However, if you are managing new or high end rentals, we highly recommend that you inform tenants that they should contact you for light replacements. In those units, you may want to ensure that all lighting remains the same.
As part of the standard Ontario lease template and most provincial or state lease templates, there is often a section (section 11 in the Ontario template) that covers tenant insurance.
Obviously, depending on the option that is selected in the lease, the tenant may be required to have tenant insurance at all times and present it to the landlord if they ask for proof.
Requiring tenant insurance as a landlord is a no-brainer because it's a relatively minor cost that is offloaded to the tenants and it adds another layer of protection for them and for your investment.
Tenant insurance will generally cover your belongings against any common risks. Risks such as fire, flooding, theft and loss are typically covered by most policies.
In the case where the tenant is responsible for any damages to your property, the property of another occupant or may have accidentally injured someone, their insurance may be responsible for covering the costs. You'll be thankful that it made everything easier and that you didn't have to file an insurance claim which could impact future insurance applications.
When pests make their way into your home or your investment, you need to be ready to deal with them as soon as possible so that they don't have time to wreck havoc.
As mentioned, maintaining a safe and hygienic property should be one of your main priorities and not doing so, can lead to some serious issues.
So how do you determine who is responsible for getting rid of those bugs or other pests? Well generally, that responsibility will fall on the landlord but, it's important to keep in mind that there are a few exceptions to the rule.
When you, as a landlord, receive information that there may be a pest issue, here are the basic steps that you are going to need to follow.
Check the lease agreement: As always, you're going to want to see what is included in the lease agreement because pest control issues should generally be included in any template.
Call pest control: We tend to call some of the larger companies, like Orkin or Go! Pest Control because in our experience, they tend to be more reliable. These larger companies will have more experts on staff ready to deal with any of your pest issues, will typically book sooner, and will often include a guarantee with their services.
Document the case: You're going to want to document what happened and keep a record of all pest control issues. This will help you build a case to chargeback all service fees to the tenant if their behaviour or treatment of the property is leading to recurring pest issues.
Tenants do also bare some responsibility. When it comes to cockroaches, ants and fleas for instance, a tenant who maintains an unclean area may be responsible.
While the landlord should be the first point of contact for the pest control, if you have suspicions that the living conditions of your tenant may have caused the pest issues, you'll want to discuss it with the exterminator. More often than not, they will be able to find the source of the problems and draft a comprehensive report that can be used as evidence if you are ever forced to chargeback the expense to the tenant.
While both landlords and tenants have responsibilities for maintaining their investment/home, it is important to clearly outline exactly who is responsible for what prior to agreeing to any lease. This will help set future expectations so there can be a clearly defined set of roles for both parties.
If, however, you're unsure as to who is responsible, the first step that you should follow is to review your existing lease to find the conditions that may relate to your issues. Should they not be available in your lease, your province or state will most likely have guidelines established on their website.
All that in mind, for single-family dwellings there may be more responsibility set on the tenant compared to multi-families.
If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to contact us directly and one of our investment specialists will be more than happy to answer any of your questions. They will also be able explain how ReDeal can help you reach your financial goals by investing on autopilot.