Is there anything worse than realizing during a bad rainstorm that your roof is leaking? If you live in your own home, there’s no question as to whose responsibility it is to repair the roof. However, if you live in a rental, your landlord might be responsible for making this hefty repair.
Determining responsibility in a rental is, unfortunately, somewhat complex. There are a variety of factors to consider first.
Tenants are entitled to a safe, habitable home.
The law is called “implied warranty of habitability.” As the name indicates, it doesn’t have to be written down to be binding, and if a landlord doesn’t meet those requirements, he/she can be taken to court. This law applies in nearly every state, dictating that a severely damaged roof must be repaired by the landlord.
Under this law, the landlord is required to do the following:
- Maintain basic structural elements like floors, roofs, stairs, walls, foundation, etc.
- Keep common areas clean and safe.
- Maintain plumbing, electrical, sanitation, ventilation, heating/air conditioning, etc.
- Provide hot and cold water.
- Provide trash and recycling receptacles.
- Remove known environmental hazards like asbestos and lead paint.
- Exterminate rodent or insect infestations.
- Provide necessary locks and other safety features to prevent illicit entry.
This should clear up any confusion about what the landlord is required to repair when there is severe damage.
What does your lease agreement say about minor roof repairs?
In most cases, the answer to this fundamental question lies within the pages of your lease agreement. It should clearly specify what each of the tenant and the landlord are responsible for.
If there were no lease agreement in place, the landlord could argue that it’s the tenant’s responsibility to take care of all minor repairs. The landlord is only responsible for providing habitable land and property, and a small leak that can easily be repaired may not fall under that category.
Think back to when you filled out your online rental application. What terms and conditions did you agree to before submitting? If your application was successful, your landlord would have given you a contract to sign. You should always save a copy of your lease agreement for your records. But if you don’t have one, your landlord should.
Even though they are not required to make minor repairs to your rental property by law, landlords usually include this clause in the agreement because it makes them competitive. Without this clause, they’ll have a hard time filling rentals.
What if my landlord refuses to repair my roof?
If you’re in desperate need of a new roof and if the lease agreement says your landlord will handle all basic repairs, the landlord is legally obligated to make the repairs.
If your landlord refuses, consider seeking legal help. Your lease agreement is a legally-binding document and will hold up in a court of law, as is the “implied warranty of habitability.” Both will protect you from this expensive repair.
What if I caused the damage to my roof?
In most cases, there will be a clause in your rental agreement stating that you are required to cover all damages that you incur. This means that if you are a business owner, and an accident with a crane means you need a roof replacement, you better start researching commercial roofing experts in your area.
On the other hand, if you’re simply walking on the roof of your building and your foot falls through, it might seem like you caused the damage, but you didn’t. A roof should be able to hold your weight easily, and if you fell through, it means that the damage has been there for a long time, and it’s your landlord’s responsibility to fix it.
Hopefully, this guide has cleared up a few of your questions about making major repairs to your home. Remember, it’s always wise to look back into your lease agreement to clear up any possible misconceptions.