Who pays the repair bills?

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You have some extra funds and decide you’re going to invest it in the real estate market and become a landlord, but who actually pays when items break and your tenant is calling you to fix it? As the owner of the property, you are usually responsible for major repairs, especially when it comes to health and safety issues.

Let’s start with one of the most expensive items on your property: your heating and cooling systems, also known as HVAC. This is an area that landlords must watch like a hawk. Almost all towns have ordinances regarding heat that favor the tenant. If the heat stops working, it most likely is your responsibility to have it repaired. On top of that, you are required to complete the work in a timely fashion: if it’s winter, usually within 24 hours usually or you could be responsible for paying for hotel accommodations for your tenant until it is repaired.

Air conditioning ordinances vary from state to state. In cooler states like Illinois, air conditioning is classified a luxury, but in warmer states, like Florida or Arizona, air conditioning could have the same guidelines as heat in Chicago.

Another major expense is appliance repair. It is usually the landlord’s responsibility but that’s not always the case. To make that determination, a repair person is usually brought in. If he or she reports that the breakdown was the fault of the tenant, the tenant could be liable for the repair bill or it could be deducted from their security deposit at the time of move out if it’s not repaired.

Minor issues like a clogged sink or toilet are usually the tenant’s responsibility and could potentially become a larger issue if the clogged toilet overflows and damages the flooring or the apartment below if it goes unrepaired. When it comes to the flooring, it can go both ways. Normal wear and tear is the owner’s responsibility but damage like stains or cigarette burns are the responsibility of the tenant.

In the end, each lease is different and that document dictates the responsibilities of each party. Whenever you draw up or sign a lease, you should make sure that all local ordinances and guidelines are followed and consult a real estate professional to ensure you are fully protected.

To contact me, call 708-583-8300, email gz@zerillorealty.com or visit www.zerillorealty.com.

About Giuseppe Zerillo

Giuseppe Zerillo is the managing broker and owner of Zerillo Realty Inc. He is active on many boards, serving as village trustee of Harwood Heights and corporate secretary for Casa Italia. In 2011, he received the IANU Foundation's 2011 David Award for outstanding promise in the field of real estate, and in 2012 he was honored by the Illinois State Crime Commission for his community outreach. Constantly seeking opportunities to give back, he donates to several charities and raises money for children with disabilities.

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