There are many existing trains of thought surrounding the expectations that landlords have of their tenants and, conversely, that tenants have of their landlords. Oftentimes these are opposing views and sources of controversy in landlord/tenant relationships. It is not only important to understand the legal expectations but also those implied expectations that help to make a landlord-tenant relationship, like any other relationship, run smoothly.
Tenants should expect to find a clean and well-maintained unit upon occupancy. All included appliances should be in good working order, and electrical and plumbing systems should also be up to code and in a safe and functioning condition. Should any of the above criteria not be up to standard, it is important to notify the landlord/manager in writing as soon as practically possible. In addition, it is recommended that you complete a detailed move-in condition report and take pictures of any issues present at time of move-in. If the landlord/manager does not provide a move-in condition report, it is advised that you create your own. This detailed documentation should help avoid any discrepancies with charges related to a tenant’s security deposit.
During the term of the lease, the tenant should expect the landlord to be responsive to any issues that may arise. It is always a good standard of practice to make sure that any maintenance items are sent to the landlord/manager in writing. Further, it is not at all unreasonable to expect a response time of less than 48 hours. While the issue may not be corrected that quickly, communication from the landlord should be forthcoming and honest. In the case of material health and safety issues, such as a gas leak or no hot water, the response time is no more than 24 hours.
Should the landlord/manager fail to respond to maintenance requests in a reasonable time frame, the tenant has rights and a legal remedy. The tenant should submit a seven-day notice to the landlord/manager outlining the issue. This recognized legal notice gives the landlord/manager seven days to rectify the problem. If after seven days the problem has not been rectified, the tenant has two options: to either terminate the lease and vacate the unit, or abate one-third of the rent until such time that the problem has been remedied. It is not uncommon to submit a seven-day notice in conjunction with any material maintenance request to ensure tenant rights are maintained.
Upon vacating the unit, the tenant can legally expect to have his or her security deposit returned with additional documentation outlining any deductions to the deposit and including invoices for any work performed. If this correspondence is not mailed to the tenant at the last known address within the 30-day time frame, the tenant is entitled to full return of the deposit plus a possible civil penalty.
It is important that both landlords and tenants understand their respective roles in the landlord/tenant relationship to ensure that all parties feel they have been treated fairly.
Brant Goodman (983-4986, Brant@kokoproperty.com) is a Santa Fe native and has been involved in real estate since 2004. Chief operations officer for Kokopelli Property Management, he recently earned the CCIM designation.