Generally, a tenant is the one paying money to their landlord. Every month, the tenant is expected to hand over their monthly rent check. But there are some situations in which the landlord is responsible for compensating or repaying their tenant.
- Reimbursement for Repairs
Sometimes, a landlord is not able to make the necessary repairs to their property. The landlord may not have enough time to finish work before they have to turn the keys over to their tenant. It could be a weekend or holiday, or the landlord may be tied up due to bad weather or travel. In these situations, the tenant may decide to pay out-of-pocket for the necessary repair work to the property. In this situation, the landlord should give the tenant their approval to make the repairs – and once the work is completed, the landlord should then compensate the tenant for the exact cost of the repairs done. The tenant can either invoice the landlord or take the money out of their monthly rental payment; it depends on the agreement between the two parties.
- “Repair and Deduct” Policies
Some states allow for “Repair and Deduct,” which is when a landlord must compensate a tenant for repairs related to a serious health or safety violation. For states that do allow Repair and Deduct, the following conditions must be met:
- There’s a significant health or safety violation that makes the property inhabitable (ex: no heat in the winter, plumbing not working).
- Neither the tenant nor their guests caused the health or safety violation.
- The tenant has notified the landlord and the local building agency about the issue.
- The local agency served the landlord notice of the violation.
- The landlord has access to the property but has not fixed the issue in a timely manner.
If all of those conditions are met, the tenant has the right to make the necessary repairs and then deduct the costs from their monthly rent. Some states do limit how much can be deducted; typically, it’s no more than four months’ rent within in 12-month period. The tenant should be prepared to provide all receipts and invoices.
- Failing at Duty of Care
Landlords are responsible, under law, for maintaining the property and ensure that it is safe and habitable. It’s their Duty of Care to their tenants. This can include regular building inspections, hiring certified or qualified workers to make repairs, and addressing any repairs that could lead to injuries. If a landlord breaches their Duty of Care, and the tenant is injured as a result of the landlord’s negligence, the tenant may be entitled to compensation for their lost wages and suffering.
- Overcharging on the Security Deposit
When a tenant signs a rental agreement, they are expected to pay the landlord a security deposit. These funds are used to cover any out-of-the-ordinary damages to the property as well as missed payments due to a broken lease. Typically, the security deposit amount is anywhere from one month to three months’ rent. Many states have laws in place that limit the amount that a landlord can charge for the security deposit. If the landlord charges more than the maximum limit, they have to pay the tenant back those additional funds. Some states also require landlords to pay damages for breaking the landlord-tenant law and overcharging on the security deposit.
- Paying Court Costs and Attorney Fees
If a landlord or a tenant take each other to court, the judge may rule that the winning party be awarded damages. (Ex: wrongfully withholding a security deposit, failing to address a security violation, non-payment of rent, etc.). The judge may also rule that one party may be responsible for the other party’s court costs or attorney fees. This can include: filing fees, court reporter fees, transcript fees, postage, or the attorney’s hourly rates.
Have Additional Questions? Contact our Experienced Real Estate Lawyers
Before the tenant signs the lease and the landlord hands over the keys, it’s a good idea to discuss who is responsible for repairs. That way, you’ll know up front who will be paying for repair work and whether that work will be reimbursed. If you have additional questions about when a landlord should compensate a tenant, please reach out to Brian M. Douglas & Associates’ real estate team. You can call (770) 933-9009 or use our online contact page.