- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

What do you do when the dishwasher has spewed soapy water across the kitchen floor and leaked down on your neighbor below? Who is responsible? The landlord or the tenant?

Across the country, tenant law differs as much as the geography. Nevertheless, some principles remain the same regardless of the local nuances of tenant and landlord rights.

One of the first places to visit for landlord/tenant law is Cornell University's Law School site (https:// www.law.cornell.edu/topics/landlord_tenant.html). The main site handles just about any legal question.

Commonly speaking (because the biggest problem I find with legal Web sites is that they don't speak in such basic terms), there are certain rights reserved for the landlord and certain rights reserved for the tenant.

Basic to all leases is the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment. This covenant ensures the tenant that his possession will not be disturbed by someone with a superior legal title to the land, including the landlord, according to the Cornell site.

I bring Cornell's Web site to the forefront because it is an official sounding and, most of all, reputable place for all of us to seek out what the law says. A site based in Cleveland, however, puts the responsibilities of landlords and tenants into simple American English.

NeighborhoodLink (https://little.nhlink.net/nhlink/) is a product of Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. It is an easily navigable site with plenty of information on rental laws in Cleveland. The site also includes some form letters for tenants who must deal with unresponsive landlords. This is a cool part of the site. Check it out at (https:// little.nhlink.net/nhlink/housing/ cto/letters/letrs.htm.)

Nevertheless, its lists of landlord and tenant duties give a simple approach to who is responsible for what in a lease agreement and generally are good across the country.

A landlord has the duty to:

— Put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.

— Keep the common areas safe and sanitary.

— Comply with building, housing, health and safety codes.

— Keep in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems and fixtures.

— Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.

— Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat, unless the hot water and heat are supplied by an installation that is under the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hookup.

— Provide garbage cans and arrange for trash removal if the landlord owns four or more residential units in the same building.

— Give at least 24 hours notice, unless it is an emergency, before entering a tenant's unit, and enter only at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner.

— Evict the tenant when informed by a law enforcement officer of drug activity by the tenant, a member of the tenant's household, or a guest of the tenant occurring in or otherwise connected with the tenant's premises.

The tenant has the duty to:

— Keep the premises safe and sanitary.

— Dispose of rubbish in the proper manner.

— Keep the plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.

— Use electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.

— Comply with housing, health and safety codes that apply to tenants.

— Refrain from damaging the premises and keep guests from causing damage.

— Maintain appliances supplied by the landlord in good, working order.

— Conduct himself in a manner that does not disturb any neighbors and require guests to do the same.

— Permit landlord to enter the dwelling unit if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given.

— Comply with state or municipal drug laws in connection with the premises and require household members and guests to do likewise.

Keep in mind, every jurisdiction's tenant laws may differ a bit. For information on your jurisdiction, a clickable list (www.MrLandlord.com) of landlord/tenant law pages is available on the Web.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for 12 years. You can address comments or questions to him by e-mail ([email protected]).


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