What bills is a landlord responsible to pay regarding the maintainance/improvement of a rental property?

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What bills is a landlord responsible to pay regarding the maintainance/improvement of a rental property?

In the residential lease agreement it states that, “Tenant shall water and maintain the garden, landscaping, trees and shrubs”. Now, aafter 3 months, the tenant sent me email saying that they spent $450 on new plants and new bark in front and back yard. The tenant did not inform me about this before. Should I, as the landlord, or the tenant be solely responsible for this bill? Do we split?

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

For a definitive answer, you need to have an attorney review the entirety of the lease and the situation with you. That said, based on what you have written, the tenant would be responsible:

1) First, the lease states that the tenant is responsible for maintaining the garden, landscaping, trees, and shrubs; therefore, from the face of it, the tenant has agreed to undertake any expenses which would be denominated or considered "maintenance."

2) Second, if the new plants and new shrubs are not "maintenance," they are then clearly something a landlord would not be responsible for--landlords are not obligated to improve or beautify property (just to maintain it, in cases where is no lease putting the maintenance obligation on the tenant). So since you would not be under any obligation to provide new bark and plants, if a tenant chooses voluntarily to do this, it is his/her cost. Other people cannot unilaterally force you to reimburse them for things they freely chose to do.

That's the law. From a business perspective, if these were good improvements and these people are good tenants, it may make sense to pay some or all.


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