The Ultimate Guide to Tenant Safety

What happens when a rental property has safety issues? This article explores tenant safety and the responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. Learn about legal obligations, maintenance best practices, and steps to take when safety concerns arise. Understanding how to address these issues protects everyone involved in the rental process.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
July 4, 2024
The Ultimate Guide to Tenant Safety

If your rental has a suspicious crack in the ceiling or a wobbly balcony railing, these are more than just minor annoyances. They are potential safety hazards that raise an important question: Who's really responsible for keeping a rental safe?

Rental properties need to be free from health hazards like lead paint dust, black mold, or structural issues. Landlords have a big role in keeping a property safe, since they own it and should be using rental income to cover maintenance and repairs. However, they're not alone in their property maintenance responsibilities — tenants have duties to fulfill, too. If they ignore lease terms or misuse appliances, they could put themselves in harm's way.

This article covers key information about tenant safety for both landlords and tenants. We'll explore legal obligations, best practices, and what to do when safety concerns arise. We'll also look at how modern property management tools can help provide a safe rental experience for everyone involved.

Tenants' rights in rental properties

Every tenant and property owner should familiarize themselves with renters' rights. These rights protect tenants and set expectations for landlords.

Tenant's legal rights

Tenants' rights include respect for personal space and a right to a fair eviction process. For instance, landlords can't just barge into a tenant's apartment or start eviction proceedings without due cause. Important tenant rights include:

  • A right to privacy.
  • A legal eviction process.
  • A healthy and safe living environment.
  • Habitable living conditions.
  • Proper handling of security deposits.
  • Adequate notice for landlord entry and lease changes.

Implied warranty of habitability

This legal doctrine states that the rental property must be fit for human habitation. Property owners are responsible for maintaining basic living standards. This implied warranty demands that tenants have reasonable access to things like:

  • Functioning plumbing, electricity, and heat.
  • A structurally sound building.
  • Pest control.
  • Clean and safe common areas.
  • Functioning appliances, including the refrigerator and oven.

If a rental property doesn't meet these conditions, tenants have the right to request repairs, which must be addressed within a reasonable timeframe. Ignoring the warranty of habitability could lead to tenants withholding rent or even breaking the lease without penalties.

Normal wear and tear vs. maintenance emergencies

Knowing the difference between normal wear and tear in rentals and maintenance emergencies is essential, as each comes with its own unique expectations and repair timeline.

Property managers should provide clear guidelines to tenants in the rental agreement on how to report both types of issues.

Rental property safety checklist

How do you verify that you've taken all the security measures you need to keep your properties safe? The best way to ensure this is to create a safety checklist that you use to review each rental premises before a new tenant moves in.

Here's what should be on the list:

Exterior safety

Starting with the exterior of the rental property, add these items to your checklist:

  • Secure doors and windows: Confirm that the rental property has reasonable security measures for exterior doors and windows. This includes sturdy locks with deadbolts on doors and working window closures.
  • Adequate lighting: Your property should have enough exterior lighting so tenants can see at night. This includes porch lights, pathway lighting, and maybe even motion-sensor lights in darker areas.
  • Safe stairways and railings: Confirm that your property has sturdy railings on all stairways and decks. Check for loose steps, rotting wood, or any other hazards that could cause a fall.
  • Landscaping: Trim bushes and trees away from windows and doors to reduce potential hiding spots for burglars.
  • Roof: Inspect for damaged or missing shingles, leaks, and proper drainage. Confirm that gutters and downspouts function correctly.

Interior safety

A property manager should review the following safety concerns inside the property:

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Install working smoke detectors in every bedroom and on each floor. Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level, too. Test all detectors and replace any dead batteries before new tenants move in.
  • Lead paint: If your property was built before 1978, it might contain lead-based paint, creating serious health risks for occupants. To address this, inform tenants about the potential presence of lead-based paint, have the property inspected by a certified professional, and take care of any remediation.
  • Fire extinguishers: Place fire extinguishers in key areas of the property, such as the kitchen and near heating sources. They should be easily accessible and not expired. Show tenants where to find them and how to use them.
  • Electrical wiring and outlets: Check all outlets and switches. Look for scorch marks or odd smells. Watch out for exposed wires or old wiring systems. If you're unsure, have an electrician inspect these areas.
  • Maintained appliances: If you provide appliances, make sure they work properly. Check for leaks in dishwashers, gas smells from ovens, and broken freezers, just to name a few.
  • Floors and walls: Check for any tripping hazards, loose floorboards, or uneven surfaces. Inspect walls for cracks, water damage, or signs of structural issues.
  • Plumbing: Verify that toilets, faucets, and pipes don't leak. Test water pressure and drainage in all sinks and showers. Also, confirm that the hot water heater functions properly and set it to a safe temperature.

Health-related safety

Here are some of the things you should check for to help protect your tenant's health and safety:

  • Mold and pest control: Check for signs of mold, especially in damp areas like bathrooms and basements. Inspect corners, cabinets, and dark spots for pest droppings or nests.
  • Proper ventilation: Check that the air flow is adequate in every room by making sure windows open easily and exhaust fans work. If you are unsure about ventilation quality, consider having an HVAC professional assess the property.

Other considerations

  • Security system: Consider allowing tenants to add a security system for the rental premises, as long as they get your approval first. Discuss any rules about installation, like not drilling holes without permission. Agree on who's responsible for removal and repairs when they move out.
  • Tenant screening: Carefully screen prospective tenants to protect the safety of all residents. Be aware that authorities could hold you responsible for foreseeable criminal acts committed by one tenant against another on your property.

Tenants' responsibilities for safety

Tenants have their own role to play in maintaining the safety of their living environment. Here are some key responsibilities for tenants:

  • Report issues quickly: Contact your landlord immediately about any safety concerns or necessary repairs. This includes issues like a broken lock, malfunctioning smoke detectors, or signs of water damage.
  • Follow lease terms: Follow all safety-related clauses in your lease agreement, such as not tampering with smoke detectors or keeping fire escapes clear. Be cautious when cooking and using candles, for example. Be sure that you know the location of fire extinguishers and escape routes.
  • Property care: Keep your rental clean and free from excessive clutter to prevent pest infestations and reduce fire risks. Proper care also increases the likelihood of getting your security deposit back at the end of the lease term.
  • Secure the property: Lock your doors and windows when leaving your rental or sleeping. Don't share your keys or access codes with anyone who is not a lawful occupant.
  • Use appliances properly: Use appliances according to manufacturer instructions to prevent accidents or damage.
  • Allow access: Cooperate with your landlord for safety inspections and repairs, and provide access as required by law and the lease agreement.

What to do when the landlord fails to address safety concerns

If your landlord refuses to fix safety issues, here are some steps you can take:

  • Document the issue: Take photos and videos of the safety issues to document the landlord's failure to address them. Be sure to keep a record of when you reported them to your landlord.
  • Request in writing: Use certified mail to send a formal letter to your landlord or managing agent about the safety issues. Give them a reasonable amount of time to respond, such as 14 days for non-emergency repairs or 24-48 hours for urgent issues like a lack of heat or water.
  • Check local housing codes: Find out if the safety issues violate local laws. You can check out your local city's housing or building department for details on code violations. If you find issues, report them to your local housing department or health inspector.
  • Consider withholding rent: In some areas, you may be able to withhold rent if the landlord fails to make major repairs. Before taking this step, be sure you understand the relevant laws. If you decide not to pay rent, hold the money in an escrow account to show your intention to pay once the management company or landlord makes the repairs.
  • Repair and deduct: Some local laws allow tenants to pay for urgent repairs and deduct the cost from their rent. If you decide to do this, keep all receipts and give your landlord written notice before and after the repairs.
  • Look into breaking your lease: If the property isn't safe to live in, you might have grounds to end your rental agreement early. Confirm local laws on this before taking this step.
  • Seek legal advice: If nothing else works, talk to a tenant rights organization or a lawyer who knows about rental laws in your area.

Managing tenant safety for property managers

Landlords can help protect the safety of their tenants by using property management software like Azibo. Here's how:

  • Tenant screening: Use the platform to conduct detailed background checks on all prospective tenants. This will help you select the best renters for your property and give your tenants peace of mind, assuring them that their neighbors are lawful occupants.
  • Lease agreements: Create legally compliant state-specific rental agreements that address maintenance responsibility and tenant safety details.
  • Maintenance: Provide tenants with an easy way to report maintenance and repair issues so that you can address them immediately. Azibo's platform allows you to receive and track maintenance requests in real-time.
    Tenants can submit issues with descriptions and photos so you can assess the urgency and respond quickly, helping you to prevent small problems from becoming major safety hazards and showing tenants that you take their concerns seriously.
  • Document management: Store important safety-related documents, such as inspection reports, repair records, and safety certificates, in one secure location. This helps you stay on top of required safety checks and provides easy access to information if questions about the landlord's liability or issues come up.
  • Landlord insurance: Protect your investment with Azibo's landlord insurance, which covers property damage, liability claims, and loss of rental income.
  • Renter's insurance: Make buying renter's insurance a must in your lease agreement. It's a win-win — tenants protect their belongings and get liability coverage, while you reduce your risks. Plus, tenants can easily buy a policy through Azibo's platform. It's simple and smart protection for everyone involved.

Tenant safety laws

Property safety is a shared responsibility that requires ongoing attention from landlords and tenants. Understanding your rights and obligations creates a safer living environment and a more positive rental experience overall.

Start with open communication — landlords should be proactive in addressing safety concerns, while tenants should report any issues they notice as quickly as possible. Regular inspections, proper maintenance, and timely responses to repair requests can prevent many problems before they become serious hazards.

A safe rental property benefits everyone. It protects tenants' well-being, preserves the landlord's investment, and promotes a mutually respectful landlord-tenant relationship. If you're renting out a property or calling it home, making safety a priority is always a smart move.

Health and safety for landlords FAQs

How do I protect myself as a landlord in Florida?

Florida landlords should screen tenants thoroughly, use a solid lease agreement, follow local and state laws, and perform regular property maintenance. You should also buy landlord insurance and document all communications and repairs.

What are three rights tenants have in California?

Tenants in California have the right to a habitable living environment, protection against unlawful eviction, and privacy. They can also request repairs from landlords, expecting timely responses within 24-72 hours for urgent repairs and up to 30 days for non-urgent repairs.

What is considered a health hazard in an apartment?

A health hazard in an apartment can include issues like mold, asbestos, lead paint, pest infestations, unsafe water quality, faulty electrical systems, lack of proper ventilation, and inadequate heating or cooling. These conditions can pose serious risks to tenants' health and safety.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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