29 November 2007
A: It’s more important now than ever before that you establish and follow an operations and maintenance plan when managing your rentals. Not only is it just good business sense to maintain your rentals properly, but also there have been recent changes in the law that mandate your prompt response to complaints of serious habitability defects. It is critical to identify tenants who engage in damaging and destructive conduct. Although the code specifically precludes a tenant from benefiting due to his damaging the apartment, often it is difficult to prove the tenant caused the habitability defect.
A good practice to enact is to create a maintenance log of repairs to each unit. Many owners will require a tenant “sign off” when the repair is completed, other owners photograph the repaired item upon completion as proof of completion. These practices will support your claim that the “self-destructing” smoke alarm is being damaged by the tenant.
Several recent pieces of legislation have been enacted to crack down on the small minority of landlords who fail to properly maintain their buildings. Depending upon the severity of the defect, and providing that it is now tenant caused, a landlord may be cited by one of several governing agencies and given a period of time, ten to thirty five days to make the repairs. If the repair is not completed as required, there are provisions that would allow the governing agency to make the repair, and add the fees and costs of correction as a lien against the property. Additionally, the legislation eliminates the tax benefits to the owner during the period of non-compliance. In extreme circumstances, the new laws preclude an owner from demanding, increasing, or collecting rent.