Things break. Whether through careless action, intentional damage, or simple wear and tear, items in a rental property will eventually go bad. However, if you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s important to know whose responsibility it is to fix anything that needs to be fixed. There isn’t always just one answer.
What Landlords Have to Do
We’ve all heard the stories - a tenant moves in to a property to find problems like mold, leaky pipes, a heater that doesn’t work, or a roof that drips water onto the bed every time it rains. Nobody wants to be in that kind of situation, and fortunately they shouldn’t have to be. Oklahoma law has specific provisions covering the responsibilities of landlords in the state.
First and foremost, a landlord must take care of all essential repairs to the property before tenants move in. That includes any repairs to the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, roof, walls, windows, and anything else that could impact a tenant’s quality of life. The rule of thumb is that the property must be “habitable,” meaning a person could be expected to live in the property comfortably and safely.
If something does break during a tenant’s stay in the property, it’s generally the landlord’s responsibility to fix it, and it’s almost always their responsibility to arrange repairs. Depending on exactly how the broken item broke, the landlord may then charge the tenant for the repairs - each situation is different, so landlords and tenants will need to discuss how the problem occurred when deciding how they will pay.
That said, landlords are not required to fix every item in a rental property. For instance, landlords don’t legally have to fix items like dripping faucets, small stains on carpets, loud air conditioners, or warped floorboards. These items may not be ideal for tenants, but they don’t directly impact quality of life or tenant safety. Since they pose no direct threat, the landlord isn’t obligated to fix them.
If something does go wrong in a rental property, or if a landlord suspects there might be something wrong, they also have “right of entry,” meaning they can enter the property after giving tenants notice (usually 24 hours) in order to fix or inspect the rental. They’re also able to enter on shorter notice in emergency situations.
What Tenants Have to Do
Just like landlords, tenants are responsible for several things in a rental property. Specifically, tenants are responsible for the regular upkeep and maintenance of the rental property, such as cleaning, maintaining items they use, and fixing anything they break.
Sometimes it’s not immediately clear who is responsible for a repair. For example, suppose a tenant flushes the toilet, but instead of going down the pipe the water backs up and floods the bathroom. Whose responsibility is the repair? The answer usually depends on the source of the problem. In cases where the issue was caused by the rental home’s existing plumbing or equipment, the landlord will usually take care of the bill. However, if the toilet clogged because the tenant flushed something they shouldn’t have, it will be their job to cover the repair.
Another common concern among tenants is the security deposit and how it is used. In most cases, the security deposit is there to cover damages to the rental property after the tenant moves out. In Oklahoma, tenants must request the return of their security deposit in writing up to six months after the end of their lease; once the landlord receives their request, they then have 30 days to return the money minus any deductions, along with a written explanation of how much was taken out of the deposit and why.
A final point to remember is that tenants should submit repair requests and complaints to their landlords in writing (or via email), in order to keep a record of what they requested as well as when and why they requested it. In case any disputes come up down the line, having this written record will help.
One thing is for sure - it’s never easy to be a landlord. That’s why the team at Elite Real Estate and Leasing does all the work for you. Our Oklahoma City property management services make it easy for anyone to become a landlord - we handle all of the day-to-day work, including tenant screening and selection, repairs, rent collection, and inspections. Contact us today 405-285-2635 to learn more and start renting your Oklahoma City property today.