As a landlord, you take on a great responsibility to maintain a safe and habitable dwelling for your current and future tenants. That responsibility extends to having essential services available within the home, including utilities like electricity, heat, running water, and sewage disposal.
Meeting these basic living standards for your tenants falls under the implied warranty of habitability. With electrical standards, do you know where your responsibility ends, and your tenant begins?
Your Responsibility as a Landlord
In many states, including Maryland, as the landlord, you must provide a working electrical system throughout the home or unit before the tenant takes possession. You may supply appliances in the unit, like a refrigerator or washer and dryer. Those also must be in working order.
Suppose for any reason the electrical system fails. In that case, whether due to a faulty outlet or an appliance light bulb is no longer working, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to remedy the failure or replace the light bulb. Upon notice by the tenant of the failure, it’s generally accepted that the landlord has a maximum of 30 days to fix the problem.
What Happens If the Landlord Fails to Fix the Electrical Problem?
Once notified by the tenant, the clock starts ticking. Lack of a properly working electrical system is considered a significant defect in the unit and falls under the Repair & Deduct Law in Maryland Code Real Property Section 8-211.
Failure to remedy the situation within 30 days after being notified allows the tenant to get the work done themselves. They can then deduct the reasonable repair cost from the rent owed to the landlord. The tenant can sue in district court, placing rent payments in an escrow account overseen by the court until the case is heard and a verdict is rendered.
Remedying an Electrical Problem
The easiest way to avoid getting sued or getting reduced rental income is to stay on top of any basic standard of living issues. When a tenant notifies you of a problem, it’s best to put the wheels in motion to have it fixed as soon as possible.
Make a note of the date, time, and method you were notified by and the problem. Keep track of all communication between you and the tenant. Depending on the situation, you may need to go to the property and view the issue yourself.
Work with a licensed electrician to have the problem fixed and maintain records of the resolution. As a landlord, these problems can arise at any time, so it’s vital to have trusted electricians you can count on to ensure you’re following the implied warranty of habitability.
Protecting the Landlord
As a landlord, you want to protect yourself as much as possible, especially when it comes to your tenants’ safe habitability. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re protecting yourself and keeping tenants safe and happy:
- Clearly outline whose responsible for paying utilities in the lease agreement
- Have a licensed electrician inspect the property before a new tenant takes occupancy
- Schedule regular inspections for all implied warranties of habitability in occupied units
- Always use a licensed electrician for all electrical work
The licensed electricians at Deshaies Electrical Services in Odenton, Maryland, are full-service contractors for residential and commercial work. Whether you have single units or own large multi-unit dwellings, we can handle all your electrical needs, big or small. Contact us today for a free estimate.