Tenant Obligations Under Landlord-Tenant Law

What Are a Tenant's Responsibilities?

Landlords are not the only ones who have to obey laws. Tenants also have certain obligations they must follow under landlord-tenant law. These obligations may differ slightly on a state by state basis, so you should always make sure your tenant knows what is expected of them in your location.

A tenant’s main obligations are threefold:

  1. Adhere to the Lease Agreement
  2. Maintain the Premises
  3. Allow the Landlord to Enter the Premises

    Adhere to the Lease Agreement

    When a tenant signs a lease to rent an apartment, he or she is agreeing to adhere to the terms of that agreement. Every lease is different. Some may only be one page long while others can be as much as twenty pages. As long as the lease terms are legal and not outlawed in the state or municipality where the rental is occurring, the tenant is required to follow them.

    Some examples of common lease terms would include:

    A tenant’s failure to follow the terms of the lease he or she signed would be a breach of lease. The landlord may be entitled to collect damages when a tenant breaches the lease.

    Maintain the Premises

    In addition to the other terms and obligations spelled out in the lease agreement, the tenant also has an obligation to maintain the premises.

    The responsibilities include:

    • Following Buildings and Housing Codes- Tenants must abide by the sections of these codes that apply to tenants. These portions often focus on safety and health standards.
    • Keeping the Unit Safe and Sanitary- Tenants must keep their actually dwelling in a “reasonably” safe and clean condition. The unit does not have to be immaculate or free from clutter, it just must be free from safety hazards such as blocked fire escapes or sanitary hazards such as dog excrement.
    • Disposing of Garbage- Tenants have the responsibility of not allowing garbage, debris, and other waste to accumulate inside their apartments. Such waste must be disposed of in a clean and safe manner.
    • Maintaining Plumbing Fixtures- Tenants must do their best to keep all plumbing fixtures they use, such as the toilet or shower, in a clean condition.
    • Properly Operating All Plumbing and Electric Fixtures- Tenants are obligated to operate all electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling or other facilities according to their intended use. Doing so will minimize the risk of damage or sanitary or safety issues.
    • Maintaining Appliances Supplied by the Landlord- In the same vein, tenants are also responsible for taking the proper care of stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers or any other appliances that have been supplied by the landlord. These appliances should only be used for their intended purposes and should be kept in a “reasonably” clean condition.
    • Not Damaging the Unit- It is the responsibility of the tenant to make sure he or she, any of their guests, or anyone they allow onto the property, does not damage the unit or any other part of the premises they have access to, including the common area, basement, or backyard. This includes deliberately damaging or destroying, damaging by neglect, or removing any part of the property.
    • Respecting Other Neighbors' Peace and Quiet- Tenants and any individuals they allow onto the premises have the obligation to conduct themselves in a way that will not be disruptive to their neighbors. This could include refraining from playing loud music or from allowing children to run and scream around the property.
    • Refraining from the Use of Illegal Drugs or Other Controlled Substances- Tenants or their guests must not use or distribute any controlled substances or other illegal or dangerous drugs on the premises. This could not only result in violating their lease agreement, it could also result in legal action being taken against them by the local government.
    • Not Tampering With Smoke or Carbon Monoxide Detectors- Tenants must never tamper with smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. This includes removing batteries, removing the detector completely, or damaging the detector.
    • Not Disturbing Paint in Homes Built Before 1978- Homes constructed before 1978 may contain lead-based paint and thus could also contain lead paint hazards. If it is a required condition in the lease agreement, tenants must notify their landlords before they paint or perform any actions or alterations that could disturb painted surfaces.
    • Preventing Mold Growth- Tenants must make an effort to prevent moisture accumulation in their unit that could lead to the growth of mold. This includes not allowing standing water. If the tenant notices any moisture accumulation, soft spots caused by water in walls or ceilings or any visible mold growth, they must immediately notify the landlord.

    Allow the Landlord to Enter the Premises

    Since a landlord is responsible for the premises, he or she has a right to enter the tenant’s dwelling. There are certain rules which apply for both the landlord and the tenant.