What are a landlord's responsibilities with respect to the rental premises?
The first place you should look is your lease. A properly drafted lease will clarify who is responsible for what, and not place too many unnecessary responsibilities on the landlord.
The next place you will want to looks is
N.C.G.S. 42-42. Hopefully, this statute was taken into account when your lease was drafted. 42-42 provides most of the answers about what is required of a landlord and provides that a landlord shall:
(1) Comply with the current applicable building and housing codes.
(2) Make all repairs necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.
(3) Keep all common areas of the premises in safe condition.
(4) Maintain in good and safe working order and promptly repair all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord provided that notification of needed repairs is made to the landlord in writing by the tenant, except in emergency situations.
(5) Provide operable smoke detectors, either battery‑operated or electrical, having an Underwriters' Laboratories, Inc. The landlord shall ensure that a smoke detector is operable and in good repair at the beginning of each tenancy. Unless the landlord and the tenant have a written agreement to the contrary, the landlord shall place new batteries in a battery‑operated smoke detector at the beginning of a tenancy and the tenant shall replace the batteries as needed during the tenancy. Failure of the tenant to replace the batteries as needed shall not be considered as negligence on the part of the tenant or the landlord.
(6) If the landlord is charging for the cost of providing water or sewer service and has actual knowledge from either the supplying water system or other reliable source that water being supplied to tenants within the landlord's property exceeds a maximum contaminant level, provide notice that water being supplied exceeds a maximum contaminant level.
(7) Provide a minimum of one operable carbon monoxide detector per rental unit per level, either battery‑operated or electrical. The landlord shall replace or repair the carbon monoxide detectors within 15 days of receipt of notification if the landlord is notified of needed replacement or repairs in writing by the tenant. The landlord shall ensure that a carbon monoxide detector is operable and in good repair at the beginning of each tenancy. Unless the landlord and the tenant have a written agreement to the contrary, the landlord shall place new batteries in a battery‑operated carbon monoxide detector at the beginning of a tenancy, and the tenant shall replace the batteries as needed during the tenancy. This subdivision applies only to dwelling units having a fossil‑fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage.
(8) Within a reasonable period of time based upon the severity of the condition, repair or remedy any imminently dangerous condition on the premises after acquiring actual knowledge or receiving notice of the condition. Notwithstanding the landlord's repair or remedy of any imminently dangerous condition, the landlord may recover from the tenant the actual and reasonable costs of repairs that are the fault of the tenant. For purposes of this subdivision, the term "imminently dangerous condition" means any of the following:
a. Unsafe wiring.
b. Unsafe flooring or steps.
c. Unsafe ceilings or roofs.
d. Unsafe chimneys or flues.
e. Lack of potable water.
f. Lack of operable locks on all doors leading to the outside.
g. Broken windows or lack of operable locks on all windows on the ground level.
h. Lack of operable heating facilities capable of heating living areas to 65 degrees Fahrenheit when it is 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside from November 1 through March 31.
i. Lack of an operable toilet.
j. Lack of an operable bathtub or shower.
k. Rat infestation as a result of defects in the structure that make the premises not impervious to rodents.
l. Excessive standing water, sewage, or flooding problems caused by plumbing leaks or inadequate drainage that contribute to mosquito infestation or mold.
(I excerpted the statute slightly, so for actual language click on the link to it above.)
In North Carolina several municipalities put additional responsibilities on a landlord as well as additional prohibitions, such as no pine straw within a certain proximity to the rental units.
Finally, you can look to federal laws and regulations. This is more often the case if you have tenants receiving rental assistance and is beyond the scope of this article. We will probably get to it another time though. Additionally, their maybe requirements on a landlord under certain disability protection statutes.
What if I don't fulfill my responsibilities?
If a landlord fails to comply with his duties the penalties may include fines, rent abatement, civil judgments, and in some cases criminal prosecution. However, a tenant still is not entitled to withhold rent with a judicial order.
How do I keep on top of all this?
I can't emphasize enough that careful lease drafting, as in every other facet of the landlord tenant relationship, is important in defining a landlord's responsibilities. It is best when you are starting out, and from time to time thereafter, to have your forms prepared by, or at least reviewed by, an attorney who specializes in real estate law.
Additionally, it is very important that every landlord keep abreast of any changes in laws and regulations, and the best way to do this is to get involved in real estate investors and/or apartment associations such as the Triangle Real Estate Investors Association or the Triangle Apartment Association.
The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Nothing in this blog shall create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the blogger and not of the PRAET LAW FIRM, PLLC.