As the owner of a rental property, you have a certain obligation to anyone who lives under your roof. A significant portion of that responsibility ensures that your tenants aren’t in constant danger because of negligence. However, for first-time landlords, determining what standard they have to meet can be a little confusing. With all that in mind, here’s a checklist for potential landlords hoping to adhere to the legal and ethical responsibilities of being a good landlord.
Table of Contents - Evaluating Safety and Health Hazards in a Rental Property
The struck bargain
When you rent out a property to someone, you’re entering into an agreement. They agree to pay rent, maintain daily upkeep, repair damage they cause and inform you when it’s time to secure a handyman. On the other hand, you have specific responsibilities, too. Two of the most important is maintaining a safe and hazard-free environment.
Obviously, there’s no such thing as a danger-proof environment. Sometimes risky situations will arise, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. That said, you are responsible for making sure that your rental property isn’t actively contributing to a dangerous situation.
Before you rent
Before it’s possible to get a tenant into any property, you must ensure that it meets several standards: local zoning bylaws, municipal codes, fire safety standards and other assorted building codes. If you’re renting a home and planning to get a tenant in without making updates, your appraiser or home inspector can tell you if your home meets the basic requirements for a rental property.
If you plan to purchase a property and perform restorative maintenance, then you should communicate your intentions to your preferred contractor. The odds are good that — if you’ve picked the right contractor — they can help get your property up to code with minimal fuss.
Don’t forget fire safety
As your tenant moves in, make sure that you provide them with the education they’ll need to avoid fires in the rental. For example, if you have heating vents, it’s worth letting them know to avoid having furniture or items with a few inches of the device. If you have a gas stove, you should let them know to not leave it unattended. It’s also worth reminding them to be conscious when burning candles.
If they smoke cigarettes and you’re comfortable with them smoking in the home, it’s worth discussing those rules upfront. Because cigarette smoke will raise the risk of a fire and it will have a corrosive impact on the paint and floor, you might consider adding a surcharge to the rent to cover your bases.
Keep the bones strong
When you find the right rental property, you’ll want to ensure that it stays safe and healthy. That means keeping an eye on the home’s floors and ceilings to ensure they remain in a safe, usable condition. Having the property inspected by a contractor between tenants can ensure that your home’s structural integrity remains strong.
If you own a multi-unit property, you should also ensure that your building’s stairs, entryways and hallways are cleaned regularly. If you have a short-term rental, you’ll need to make sure that it is cleaned thoroughly between clients. Do yourself and your renters/tenants a favour and hire a professional service to clean. They will use sanitized instruments and put years of experience to work, and, frankly, they’ll probably do a better job than you. After all, you didn’t get into real estate investment to clean toilets.
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Maintain seasonal awareness
While the entirety of Canada may not get blanketed in inches of snow (like the rest of the world would believe), it’s still crucial to make sure that your tenants have their comfort and safety attended to throughout the year. If you have a working furnace or stove, your tenant should have ample access to any fuel they need to run it. When the temperature dips, you should ensure that your tenants aren’t worried about keeping warm or having clean, hot water for bathing.
During the summertime, ensure that your tenant can adequately cool the apartment to prevent health problems from cropping up. They should be able to open windows, at the bare minimum.
Promote electrical safety
One of the leading causes of fire (and your tenants’ dissatisfaction) is the neglect of a home or building’s electrical system. That’s why one of the first calls you should make once you sign the deed to your new rental property is to an electrician. Then, schedule an annual or twice-yearly inspection from the electrician to ensure your electrical system remains strong. This goes double for homes that are older than twenty years.
Not only do routine inspections help you stay on top of your rental property’s electrical work, it reminds your tenant to be kind to their electrical systems when you’re not around.
Don’t underestimate preventative maintenance
Easily the most important thing you can do to make sure that your rental property remains a safe and healthy environment is to schedule routine visits from an array of qualified professionals. Paying a pro to walk through your property can ultimately save you a lot of money. An expert can pinpoint minor issues and fix them before they turn into something that will ruin your day.
Make sure that you have a pest control specialist visit your property on a semi-annual basis. Depending on the threats in the area, a pest control company can help establish the right routine for preventative care.
Even if you’ve agreed with the tenant that they will take responsibility for your yard, you should still take regular sighting-seeing trips of the property to ensure the roof remains in good condition, the siding isn’t warped or cracking and that the tenants are staying true to their word and keeping the landscape in good condition.
You should also think about scheduling yearly visits from an HVAC repairman, plumber, arborist, roofer and gutter cleaner and chimney contractor (assuming you have one). The costs of regular visits will ultimately outweigh the overall costs of repairing problems when things break down.
Routine Rental Inspections
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