Is my landlord responsible for my stolen bike?

Written by Kathy Adams on . Posted in edited, For Renters, landlord tenant, Laws & Regulations, paid, renter's insurance, theft

When it comes to theft, it doesn’t matter if your bike is worth $100 or $1,000. If your bike gets stolen from your rental, your first reaction may be to blame the landlord. In most cases, however, the landlord isn’t liable, even if it was stolen from inside your apartment.

Your stuff, your responsibility (usually)

In most cases, you’re responsible for your personal property when it comes to your home.

This includes your bike, your computer, or anything else stolen during a break-in. The same also holds true for a bicycle kept outside, whether it’s on a patio or locked to an onsite bike rack.

Landlord responsibilities

In some cases, your landlord could be held responsible for a stolen bike if they didn’t provide sufficient security measures. It’s the landlord’s job to ensure basic safety measures to prevent criminal activity, but what that means, exactly, varies from region to region. Some cities may require that rental units have functioning deadbolts on doors and locks on ground-floor windows. Others may require ample lighting in common areas. Check your local and state laws to determine landlord responsibilities in your area.

Landlord ignores security issues

If you can prove your landlord ignored known security issues, such as broken window locks, you may have a case against them. Document all requests for security-related repairs or upgrades, as well as general repairs inside your rental unit, as they happen. These can help prove your case in the event of theft. Your landlord also must protect your belongings if a contractor works in your apartment while you’re away, for instance.

Don’t rush to sue

If the landlord failed to provide sufficient security or make security-based repairs in a timely fashion, you could sue for negligence. Before suing, however, make sure it’s worth your while. Legal costs could add up to more than your bike’s value in a hurry. Another option is to simply not renew your rental agreement.

Related: How to file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord or renter

The benefits of renters insurance

You can take an important step to protect your belongings—renters insurance. Renters insurance covers your bike and any other personal belongings stolen or damaged during a break-in. Better yet, it even covers your bike if it’s stolen off site, such as from your workplace. This insurance also covers items lost in a fire, for instance. It’s a great idea to purchase a policy, much as homeowners buy insurance to protect their personal property.

Related: The ultimate guide to renters insurance

Read the fine print first

As with other forms of insurance, renters insurance rates and the amounts of coverage vary from one policy or company to another. Some include limits on payouts per item stolen or damaged based on a percentage of total coverage. For instance, a policy from esurance pays full value of any item stolen or destroyed, as long as that single item is 10 percent or less of the total policy coverage. Some policies also don’t cover high-value items, typically worth thousands of dollars. Most insurance companies offer numerous package options, so it’s easy to pick a plan that meets your needs and budget.

Read your rental agreement

Read the original contract you signed when moving in, and find out exactly what you agreed to as far as security. For instance, if the agreement says buildings and common areas are secure, but several thefts happened recently, the landlord could be responsible. Some agreements explicitly state the landlord isn’t responsible for personal property, which means you should take steps to secure your own belongings.

9 maintenance issues tenants are responsible for

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, For Renters, landlord tenant, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, rental maintenance

Maintaining a clean, safe, and livable rental property is a shared commitment. The law requires a landlord to provide a safe and habitable residence, but it won’t stay that way for long unless tenants share upkeep responsibilities.

Landlords can’t control how tenants live, but they have a right to expect proper use of their properties. Some commonsense tasks, such as proper disposal of trash, need no explanation. Other maintenance issues should be specified in the lease so everyone is on the same page.

1. Waste disposal

You have to throw away the trash if you want a clean and sanitary home. Most municipalities provide waste disposal services for which they generally charge a fee. Landlords often pass this fee on via a lease clause or include it in the rent. In places without regular trash service, it’s important to negotiate a disposal strategy and stick with it.

Related: How to handle dirty tenants

2. Pest control

It’s up to the landlord to ensure that a rental is pest-free before anyone moves in. Once the place is occupied, though, tenants automatically assume some of the responsibility for keeping it that way. If the landlord has corrected structural problems that allow rodents and insects to enter, tenants should avoid attracting them with poor hygienic practices. Tenants could be financially liable for abatement of an infestation caused by negligence, especially if they violate provisions specified in the lease.

Related: Best pest control and prevention tips for your rental property

How to deal with bed bugs at your rental property

3. Landscaping

Lawn and yard maintenance can fall to the tenant if a lease clause assigns these tasks. In that case, any violation of city or county ordinances would be the tenant’s responsibility. The tenant is always responsible for keeping the yard safe by removing obstacles and generally cleaning up. In certain situations, particularly in shared housing units, a landlord may contract a tenant to do yard maintenance in exchange for compensation.

Related: Should a tenant be paid for doing yard work?

4. Snow removal

Snow removal is a matter of safety, not only for tenants but for anyone using a public walkway that crosses the property. Some municipalities assess fines for failure to remove snow in a timely fashion. Able-bodied tenants are in the best position to handle this job, but it isn’t their responsibility unless the lease specifies it. However, because tenants have a responsibility to keep the premises safe, they could be faulted for failing to clear snow from doorways and walkways that access them.

Related: Snow removal—how to avoid being negligent

5. Mold prevention

Mold grows where there’s moisture, and the question of whose job it is to prevent it—and clean it up—can be a thorny one. In general, it’s the landlord’s job if the moisture comes from a plumbing or building leak. Liability for cleanup may fall to tenants if the mold is the result of poor hygiene practices, such as leaving piles of damp clothing in the corner. Tenants are also responsible for providing adequate ventilation and could be required to clean surface mold on furniture and bathroom walls.

Related: Is a landlord always responsible for mold remediation?

6. Proper appliance use

Appliances, such as stoves, microwaves, and dryers, won’t last long under abuse. Proper appliance use is a must in any living situation, and if any repair or replacement is clearly the result of negligence on the part of tenants, they may have to foot the bill. Landlords are typically responsible for routine maintenance, such as filter replacement or duct cleaning. This could be addressed in the lease.

Related: How long should appliances last?

7. Smoke detector maintenance

Smoke detectors are generally unnoticeable until they need new batteries or they go off, which hopefully never happens. When a smoke alarm needs new batteries, it’s the landlord’s job to replace them, unless the lease says otherwise. It’s up to tenants to avoid false alarms caused by shower steam or cooking smoke, but if an alarm goes off for no reason, they must notify the landlord as soon as possible so it can be fixed or replaced.

Related: The long and short of smoke alarms

8. Septic maintenance

Improper use of a septic system can seriously shorten its life. This is such an important maintenance issue that most landlords include a lease clause or provide a handout that describes best practices. They include treating oils, greases, and non-degradable substances as trash and not plumbing waste. Septic treatments, tank pumping, and pump maintenance are the landlord’s responsibility, but if the system fails, tenants could be dinged if negligent use is the cause.

Related: How to educate your tenants about using a septic system

9. Contacting the landlord

It’s illegal for a landlord to make tenants responsible for all repairs. Tenants do have a responsibility, however, to contact the landlord or property manager when the property needs repairs. Any damage that results from a failure to do so could cost all or part of the security deposit or more. Unless authorized by the lease, tenants can’t make repairs on their own unless the landlord does not respond. In that case, most states allow tenants to make repairs that affect habitability and charge the landlord.

Understand the lease requirements

When it comes to maintenance issues for tenants, it’s important to read and understand the lease before signing it. Certain clauses may stipulate maintenance tasks that don’t normally fall to tenants, and once they sign on the dotted line, tenants own these tasks. Encourage your tenants to take the lease home and study it carefully before signing.

PayRent.com