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Tenant obligations – Responsibilities, Duties, Cleaning, Noise, Repairs, Pets, Rent payment, Utilities, Damages, Smoking, Subletting

Here is a list of Tenant Obligations:

  • Maintain Cleaning in the dwelling
  • Minimize Noise
  • Complete minor Repairs
  • Adhere to Pet agreement
  • Pay Rent on time
  • Pay Utilities bill
  • Avoid Damages to the dwelling and property
  • Adhere to the Smoking agreement
  • Adhere to the Subletting agreement

What are the tenant obligations?

Tenant obligations refer to the duties that tenants must abide by if they lease a property, to avoid issues, and, potential eviction. As with all contracts, the respective duties of the parties are governed by the lease agreement; however, below is a short list of tenant responsibilities which almost always exist, either in every lease agreement, and/or in the laws and statutes pertaining to landlord/tenant obligations.

  1. Ensure general upkeep of unit; do not cause damage beyond normal wear and tear;
  2. Do not engage in illegal activities on the premises;
  3. Do not create a nuisance on the premises, which improperly disturbs the neighborhood (e.g. loud music at odd hours; piles of trash that attract pests, etc.);
  4. Report material issues to landlord within a reasonable time of noticing them;
  5. Timely Rent Payment.

While the bare minimum tenant duties are fairly common sense, there are many other things which need to be addressed in leases, which are not so obvious, but are very important. A short list of those, and by no means a complete one, is:

  1. Are tenants allowed to sublease the property to others, or Airbnb the property?
  2. Are tenants allowed to move other people in if they want?
  3. Are tenants allowed to adopt pets and move them in, without landlord approval?
  4. Are tenants allowed to store personal items outdoors, and make the place look bad in doing so?
  5. Whose obligation is it to pay the water bill, trash bill, sewage bill, and other utilities? 

Luckily for BTRE Clients, we are experienced attorneys and investors, and as such, we know the laws surrounding, as well as the pitfalls involved with various types of rentals and leases- so if you are looking for help with tenants, you have come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll take you through all the major obligations and rights of a tenant.

What is the biggest responsibility of a tenant?

The biggest responsibility of a tenant is to pay monthly rent on time, and in pretty much all circumstances, the landlord can evict a tenant, and fast, if tenant doesn’t pay rent.  Things like loss of job, or other personal struggles, are not considered legal excuses to not pay rent. If tenants do not pay rent, they will almost always be subject to eviction. (Exceptions might include global pandemics/eviction moratoriums connected with natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.- not common)

Tenants may have rights to offset rent owed, if there have been delayed repairs, or other problems with the property decreasing the habitability. (For example, if the heater was out for a week in winter, tenant may argue that rent was not due during that week because property was not inhabitable) At BTRE we are knowledgeable of local tenant laws in Los Angeles, as well as general landlord tenant issues. 

What are the duties of a tenant?

The duties of a tenant are to generally to maintain the general upkeep of their rented unit and keep it in decent condition, not engage in illegal activities, not create nuisances or disturbances on the property, and to pay rent. 

There are other specific duties tenants have as well, some of which are contained in statutes and regulations, and many of which are simply included in leases as terms- such duties include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Giving access to the unit to allow repairs, or showings of the unit;
  2. Not having unauthorized persons come and cohabit with tenant;
  3. Not subletting the property;
  4. Not storing personal items in unauthorized spaces/creating clutter and eyesores on the property;
  5. Not having unauthorized pets;

What obligations do tenants have when moving out?

The obligations that tenants have when moving out include giving a 30-day reasonable notice if they have a monthly agreement. The obligations that tenants have when moving out also include settling rent, as stated by the LA County: Consumer and Business Affairs.

In most cases, it is customary to provide a timely written notice letter to your property owner. Furthermore, you must have the landlord inspect the unit at least 2 weeks before you plan to move out.

During this period, the property owner will get a convenient time for major repairs. The Big Town Real Estate Team can guide you best when it comes to rental agreements and buying properties.

What cleaning obligations do tenants have?

The cleaning obligations that tenants have pertain to keeping their rented unit habitable. The cleaning obligations that tenants have mean keeping the premises in reasonably habitable and sanitary condition. Leases usually go into some more detail about how clean a tenant must keep the property.

Under law, a tenant may not commit “waste”, which is essentially to engage in conduct which destroys or degrades the property. Things like having a pet and not cleaning up after it, or clean up after it. To scout the most convenient rental properties in LA, contact the Big Town Real Estate office.

What noise obligations do tenants have?

The noise obligations that tenants have that can lead to eviction are mainly repeated noise complaints, as per James Durr from the Rental Housing Journal. As a tenant, you need to avoid placing loud appliances or devices near shared walls in the rental unit. Legally, excessive noise is referred to as creating a “nuisance” – which is loosely defined as anything a tenant does which disrupts the quiet enjoyment of others living near the property. 

Landlords can include a clause against excessive noise in the rental unit agreement also; most agreements have them, which also makes excessive noise a breach of contract. BTRE is very familiar with these sorts of lease terms, and legal principles of noise and nuisance.

What repair obligations do tenants have?

The repair obligations that tenants have are minor repairs and upkeep. Most repair obligations fall on landlords, as it is landlords obligation to maintain the property- this is one benefit of being a tenant and not a landlord- tenants rarely have to pay for any serious property repairs. 

Moreover, if you are a property owner, you are responsible for common area upkeep, plumbing, and other major jobs. Whereas, if you are leasing a property, you need to repair any wear and tear you cause. For greater insights, contact the Big Town Real Estate team.

What guest obligations do tenants have?

There are not many laws regarding tenants and how they are to handle guests- typically gues obligations are in the lease. Tehant guest obligations typically include restrictions on how many guests can come to the property, and most importantly, how long the guests can stay. For example, if a family member comes to stay with the tenant, and doesn’t leave for 30 days, then it is possible that this person could claim that they too, are a tenant, and landlord would need to go through the eviction process to get rid of them. Because there are not generally laws which dictate guest obligations, landlords must clearly lay these out the lease agreement as stated by the American Apartment Owners Association. They recommend that you must also state if and where guests can park. Our experts at Big Town Real Estate can help both landlord and tenants get through, draft, and negotiate these agreements.  

What pet obligations do tenants have?

The pet obligations that tenants have are typically outlined in lease agreements- there are minimal laws regarding pets. There is proposed legislation in fact, which may ban “no-pet” policies, as per Terry Chea from KQED. Pets of course, cannot create waste, or be a nuisance, even if they are allowed. Also, there are laws pertaining to Service Animals, whereby, if a pet is designated a “service animal” then a landlord is required to allow the pet in the unit. 

What rent payment obligations do tenants have?

The rent payment obligations that tenants have are timely and full rent payments. If the rent payment obligations that tenants have are fulfilled, then there is a good chance that a tenancy cannot be terminated, as recent laws have made termination of tenancies much harder, as stated in this article by Attorney General Rob Bonta, State of California Department of Justice.

What utility obligations do tenants have?

The utility obligations that tenants have vary as per contract terms- there is no blanket rule. Typically tenants need to pay for electricity and gas, and sometimes water. 


What obligations do tenants have for property damage?

The obligations that tenants have for property damage pertain to actual damages caused by the tenants or their guests, that is beyond “normal wear and tear”. This is of course a vague term, and ultimately, a judge may end up deciding what is or isn’t “normal wear and tear” if the landlord and the tenant have a dispute and cannot agree.

The obligations that tenants have for property damage are caused by neglect and abuse as stated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development – which is over and above normal wear and tear.

At BTRE, we have lawyer-level knowledge of all of these ins and outs and can help our clients navigate the tricky waters of landlord/tenant obligations. So, contact us if you need help negotiating the reasonable costs for defective conditions. Here are some common examples of residential property actual damages for your reference.

  • Broken doors and windows; (Not usually “wear and tear” unless perhaps doors/windows are excessively old or in bad shape to begin with).
  • Missing pre-installed fixtures; (Not generally “wear and tear”)
  • Gaping holes in plaster or walls; (Not generally “wear and tear”)
  • Burns or holes in carpet (Typically carpet replacement is considered “wear and tear”;
  • Discolorations on paint (Typically paint is considered “normal wear and tear”, much to the chagrin of many landlords)
  • Chipped wooden flooring (This might be “wear and tear”, might not be, depending on severity)

What obligations do tenants have regarding smoking?

If the obligations that tenants have regarding smoking are violated repeatedly, you may ask them to vacate. Smoking is frowned upon, and a landlord can include a no-smoke clause, as directed by the HUD in their smoke-free toolkit. There is however, no law that says tenants can or cannot smoke; this is negotiable.

What obligations do tenants have for subletting?

The obligations that tenants have for subletting are very clear. The obligations that tenants have for subletting are that they must have written consent to sublet, from the landlord, Phil Ahn from iProperty Management. You can customize the subletting clause in the rental agreement, as per your preference. However, you must have complete knowledge of your rights and obligations. Get in touch with the Big Town Real Estate team for legal advice and pick the best deal for your property.

Should all Tenant obligations be on the rental agreements?

Tenant obligations should be on the rental agreements and must be clearly stated. A good agreement makes for a clear relationship between landlord and tenant, and clarity in the mind of both parties is the most important element to avoiding landlord tenant disputes- most (but definitely not all) disputes stem from misunderstandings and lack of clarity.Oral agreements for example, lead to lots of disputes. according to Samantha-Rae Tuthill from Law Info. Moreover, in California, oral agreements on properties may not even be enforceable in some instances.

At Big Town Real Estate, we will guide you every step of the way, and pride ourselves in always coming up with the right lease contract to suit our clients needs.

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