Maintenance can be difficult to plan for with residential homes. Vandalism, inclement weather, irresponsible tenants, poor installation/repair and time make it unclear when components of a home will need serviced. Although one cannot foresee everything that could go wrong with a home, it is important for landlords to understand their responsibilities to maintain their investment in a habitable manor.
The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act outlines the accountability of property-owners regarding maintenance. Section 33-1324 states that Landlord will, “Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by him.”1 This means if a toilet breaks, the sink leaks or the air conditioning goes out; the landlord is liable to repair these items. If the investor knows and can prove the tenants caused the problem, he/she can hold the tenants responsible to take care of the issue; otherwise the responsibility reverts back to the home-owner.
It is also important to know that neglecting to fix items in a reasonable time frame can lead to tenants breaking their lease without ramifications. Fire, safety, flooding, heating and ac failure all constitute emergencies in Arizona. During this time of year the most common maintenance request is for a faulty air conditioning system. Tenants may provide a 5 day non-compliance clause to remedy the problem, for which if not fixed they can opt legally out of their lease. While the law may provide certain time frames to cure these situations, most tenants want things fixed right away; and it is in the landlord’s best interest to have these problems fixed as soon as possible to keep tenants happy or provide help if the time is extended.
Recently the ac went out in a home I manage and the home warranty company could not get someone out there for 2 days. After correcting what was thought to be the problem, it was found that the compressor needed to be replaced; thereby extending the amount of time that was needed to get the unit up and running. Considering nobody in Phoenix likes to be without air conditioning for one day, the total time of 1 week was far too extensive. As a result, the tenants were compensated for their time in the hotel room. Some landlords have been known to provide credit to rent, furnish temporary standing cooling units if issues like this occur.
What is important for investors to keep in mind is that if you cannot afford to fix something that comes up, you may have a big problem to deal with since according to the law, residential rentals do have a living standard that has to be kept, otherwise one may find their tenants legally breaking their lease or on the other side of a lawsuit for performance. So what is the best solution: Plan ahead, you never know when a maintenance request is going to arise so budget some money aside for repairs.
1-Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act- http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/publications/residential_landlord_tenant_act/Residential.pdf