Landlord Responsibilities: The Roof
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to your tenant to make sure their home is safe and livable. You also want your property to retain and grow its current value and continue to be a marketable rental. This means taking care of major repairs and being responsive to tenant concerns, complaints, and calls about problems. In our on-going series about specific landlord responsibilities, let’s talk about the roof on your rental property.
Replacing a roof is one of the two largest expenses for maintaining a property (HVAC is the other). No one wants the unexpected expense of replacing a roof whether it’s your own home or a rental property.
Maintaining your current roof will keep your expenses down and help you meet your obligations to your tenants.
Repairs and Maintenance
When you put together your lease with your tenant, you can negotiate as much or as little repair responsibility as you’d like. If your renter is a contractor and knows how to take care of home maintenance or is willing to incur the costs of repair, you can put this in the lease. On the other hand, if you prefer to make all decisions and take care of it yourself, you should make that clear in the lease agreement.
No matter what the lease says about repair and maintenance, you should be aware that, ultimately, you’re responsible for the property. To make sure the roof is properly maintained and stays in good condition, here are a few things you’ll want to do:
● The roof should be in good condition - no leaks, no loose shingles, no known problems - when new tenants move in.
● Inspect the roof as part of your annual maintenance checklist. Make repairs to small problems before they become big ones.
● When a tenant calls to report a leak or a discoloration in the ceiling, take care of it as soon as possible.
● Don’t let roof replacement sneak up on you. A roof can last anywhere from 15 to 30 years, depending on the quality of the roof and what prior damage has occurred. Talk to a contractor before you need to replace it to get an idea of how much time you have left. Start saving now for an eventual new roof.
● You may want to replace an older roof sooner than necessary to save on your insurance costs and to protect your rental against future problems like hurricanes or other bad storms.
What Happens if You Neglect Roof Maintenance and Repairs?
A bad, leaky roof creates plenty of problems for property owners and tenants. Damage to the walls, possible mold, and the decrease in home value are just the beginning. Make your tenants wait too long for a solid roof or force them to live in a home that’s not safe, and you’re looking at other problems that will cost you money and time as well as your reputation.
If you don’t meet your responsibilities and your tenants are left in an uninhabitable rental, they may have some legal recourse against you.
● They may be able to move out before the lease is up without having to pay any additional costs for breaking the lease.
● They might pay for the repair itself and deduct the cost from their rent payment.
● Your tenants may be able to withhold the rent until the problem is fixed. In order for this to be legal, they would have to deposit their rent in an escrow account and so that the rent is technically “paid” but you won’t receive it until you fix the roof.
● Renters could contact local health and safety inspectors who may fine you for safety or healthy violations the bad roof caused and any other violations they find.
● You could be sued.
All of these situations would only happen in very specific circumstances, but if you take care of the roof in your rental property, it won’t be something you have to worry about.
The easiest way to avoid the worry and hassle is to work with a property management company who understands the legal responsibilities and requirements of being a landlord. They should also have the resources to take care of problems while keeping you informed of what your options are. ERA American Real Estate has the vendor contacts, the legal knowledge, and the ability to help you take care of your rental properties and tenants. Give us a call today!