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What things does a landlord have to do?

There are both federal and local codes that detail exactly what a landlord needs to provide in a rental property. Each area may have slightly different laws, but in general, the landlord needs to ensure that when a tenant moves in the apartment or house is safe, and in a reasonable, livable condition. There are particular requirements governing the minimum standards for such things as plumbing and electricity, lighting, ventilation and lead-free paint. The building must have proper structural integrity. In some cities, the landlord must also provide a fire extinguisher and furnish the place with a smoke alarm.

The landlord not only needs to provide a living space that is free of safety hazards, such as exposed wiring or broken floorboards, but is also responsible for keeping the tenants safe from crime. This means that outside doors and accessible windows must have working locks. If there is a buzz-in intercom, it must be functional. Common areas and stairwells must be well lit. The landlord must also be sure that his/her tenants are not criminals and are not committing crimes on the property.

The landlord is responsible for any repairs that must be made to the property during the renters' tenancy. S/he must respond to the tenant's request for repairs within 24 hours and have the repair carried out within a reasonable timeframe. Tenants have a right to withhold rent payments if repairs are not carried out, or to have the repairs done themselves, deducting the cost from the rental fee. If the situation isn't remedied, they may be able to sue, or to break the contract and leave in the middle of the lease period. Landlords usually try to avoid such measures by keeping a record of when a repair request is made, and when it is dealt with. In addition, they may take out liability insurance (in some states this is required). Liability insurance covers medical or legal costs that may arise if the landlord is sued for damages suffered by the tenant through negligence, discrimination, invasion of privacy or wrongful eviction [source: Steingold].