Although landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state, common myths about rental properties are in circulation nationwide. The following are some widely held beliefs about renting and why they may not be as true as you think.
The Security Deposit Covers the Last Month’s Rent
Although the security deposit may equal a month’s rent, it is not earmarked for that purpose. The last month’s rent and the security deposit are two separate matters. The security deposit is intended to cover repairs or cleaning resulting from greater than normal wear and tear. It cannot be used by the landlord for make-ready repairs and cleaning costs between vacancies.
The Landlord Is Responsible for All Maintenance and Repairs
Not necessarily true. In general, it is the landlord’s obligation to take care of plumbing issues, pest control, and general maintenance. However, there are some things that are not the landlord’s problem, particularly when caused by the tenant. For damages caused by tenant negligence, the landlord may address the repairs and withhold the cost from the tenant’s security deposit.
Whatever the Lease States Is Legally Binding
This is not true unless the lease conforms to the law. Terms of a rental or lease agreement that violate local, state, or federal laws are not enforceable. For example, when the law requires advance notice of entry, the landlord cannot visit the property at any time without warning simply because it is stated in the lease.
The Landlord Is Liable for Tenant or Visitor Injuries Sustained on the Property
Whether this holds true depends on the circumstances surrounding the injury. Landlords have a duty to properly maintain common areas, warn of any hidden dangers, and make safe furnished dwellings on short-term leases. A landlord is only liable for injuries to tenants and visitors when the landlord’s negligence is the direct cause of the injury.
- To hold a landlord liable for injuries, the tenant will have to prove that:
- Landlord had a duty to fix a dangerous condition on the property.
- Landlord breached that duty by not fixing the problem in a reasonable amount of time.
- Landlord had adequate warning of the problem and fixing it would not have been unreasonably difficult or expensive.
- Failure to repair the dangerous condition was the cause of the injury.
- Damage that resulted was serious and foreseeable.
- Landlord’s negligence directly caused the injury.
It Is the Landlord’s Responsibility to Insure the Property
Yes and no. The property owner is responsible for insuring the structure. In case of fire, for example, the landlord’s rental property insurance policy will protect the landlord’s investment and cover the cost of rebuilding. However, the landlord’s insurance does not cover replacement costs for damaged personal property owned by the renters, nor does it cover the cost of moving to another location while repairs are being made to the damaged apartment or home. Only a renters insurance policy can provide this type of protection.
Importance of Insurance for Landlords and Renters
A landlord who invests in a rental property will need rental property insurance that may include building coverage, general liability protection, auxiliary structure coverage, flood insurance, and commercial umbrella liability for additional protection. It is important for renters to have their own rental insurance to protect their personal property in case of a covered disaster in the rented dwelling. Our knowledgeable agent at Walker-Poole Insurance in Gaithersburg, Maryland can help both landlords and renters find the best available rates for the coverage they need.