As a residential tenant, a variety of issues can come up with a rented property and tenants count on their landlords to do right by them when something needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, landlords don't always abide by their legal obligations.
Because of this, tenants need to have a clear understanding not only of the terms of their lease agreement but also of the duties of a residential landlord under North Carolina law. This includes, first of all, complying with all building and housing codes on all points, including the Fire Codes and the Health Codes. It also includes keeping common areas of a leased property in safe condition and maintaining the premises of the property in a fit and habitable condition, which is known as the warranty of habitability.
State law also requires that landlords maintain in good and safe working order electrical, plumbing, ventilating, air conditioning, as well as sanitation services and other facilities and appliances supplied or required to be supplied. Normally, notice must be provided for the need for maintenance, except when there is an emergency. Landlords are also required to provide smoke detectors which are both functional and meet certain specifications, and must replace or repair them within a certain amount of time after receiving notice. The landlord is also required to provide new batters in the detectors, but only at the beginning of the tenancy, unless there is an agreement that the landlord maintain the batteries.
State law is clear that the duties of a landlord may not be waived, by lease or otherwise. Landlords can, however, form an agreement with the tenant that the latter performs the landlord's maintenance duties for reasonable and just compensation. Tenants who have suffered damages as a result of a landlord who failed to abide by any of the above duties don't have to allow the landlord to pass off responsibility, but should consult an experienced attorney to determine what recourse they have and to receive strong representation moving forward.
We'll continue this discussion in our next post.