Landlords are required by law to behave a certain way, such as providing notice before entering and delivering written notices for lease violations. They are also required to provide their tenants with a number of things when renting out a property, such as working electricity and plumbing systems. When it comes to appliances, however, many landlords and tenants are unclear on what is required by law and what is not. This can cause a lot of misunderstanding between the two parties as to must legally be provided to make a rental property habitable.
Landlords and the Implied Warranty of Habitability
Every state requires that landlords must do everything they can to keep a rental property habitable, a condition known as the implied warranty of habitability. This means that there is a minimum level of safety and function that a rental property must meet to be considered habitable. Landlords have to do what it takes to keep their rental property habitable at all times.
While this standard may vary slightly from state to state, most include these essentials, which have been determined as necessary to make a unit fit, safe and habitable:
- Meet all building and safety codes and standards
- Heat, especially in cold weather
- Hot and cold water and working plumbing
- Sewage disposal system
- Electric system
- Weather resistant (roofs, windows and doors intact)
- Pest free
- Standard safety features that work (door/window locks)
- No obvious hazards or safety issues
Landlords must make every repair or call in specialists to ensure that everything is properly working in order to meet the habitability requirement. Many landlords and tenants are quite surprised to discover that their state’s implied warranty of habitability makes no mention of appliances or that their presence is considered a requirement of habitability.
Must Landlords Supply Appliances?
The answer to the question of whether landlords must supply appliances is no, they aren’t legally required to. Refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, microwaves, washers and dryers do not have to be provided yet many tenants mistakenly believe that they must be provided by law. The truth is that landlords are not compelled to provide any of these based on state laws. The implied warranty of habitability merely states that these minimum standards must be met, and appliances are not considered a part of the minimum standard.
Frustrated tenants that are not aware of these laws may feel as if landlords are shirking their duty to supply this type of equipment at a rental property. They may feel put upon or that their landlord is doing something illegal by denying them a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and so forth. An educated landlord can carefully guide a tenant toward the state laws that support their position to eliminate any further misunderstandings.
Tenants that prefer to use their own appliances, however, find that an appliance-free rental is ideal. They can use their own personal appliances and know exactly who is responsible for repairs. When they leave the rental property, the appliances go with them. Landlords that don’t supply them, however, will be limited to renting to those tenants who are willing to purchase or rent what they need as long as they live in the rental property.
Should Landlords Supply Appliances?
Even though landlords are not required to supply appliances in a rental unit, many do so anyhow as a way to entice the widest range of applicants. Because those who rent often don’t have a lot of furniture and appliances of their own, they are seeking places that can supply them. This is especially applicable in a college student market or for young, single professionals. Applicants that aren’t willing to buy or rent things like refrigerators and dishwashers will automatically pass over any advertised rental properties that don’t come with the desired appliances. Landlords who want to cast the widest net possible for good applicants and stable tenants often supply some or all appliances in their rentals.
Another reason why landlords might want to consider supplying appliances is because of their competition. If comparable rental properties in the neighborhood are providing appliances and another landlord is not, applicants will most likely turn to the competition because they see they are getting more for their money. Landlords can either compromise on the rent to try and attract applicants or give in and provide appliances.
Appliances and the Lease Agreement
If a landlord does supply appliances to a rental property, they belong to the landlord and should be maintained just as any other part of the property. This includes repairs and replacements for wear and tear or other major problems. Of course, if the tenant or the tenant’s guests are responsible for any damage, the cost should be covered by them.
The wisest landlords include a specific clause that covers appliances in the rental unit, listing what is provided and specifying who is responsible for repairs. It’s always a good idea to check out every item during the move-in inspection and document the condition with the tenant present. That way, both landlord and tenant can compare the condition upon moving out and assess any damages or wear and tear.
Appliances in the rental unit may be a headache for landlords, but they are an attractive amenity that many renter feel are a necessity for them to sign a lease agreement. Landlords need to look at their rental market, their rental property and the types of tenants they hope to attract and make their own decision of whether or not to supply appliances.