Landlord vs. Tenant: Who’s Responsible for the Gutter?
While some people feel that home ownership is preferable, there are a lot of advantages to renting a single-family house from an individual or property management company. Not only are the residents spared the massive down payment that is required for buying a home, but the responsibility (and the cost) for much of the home’s upkeep and repair falls on the shoulders of the landlord. That said, the tenant still is required to maintain the overall appearance and complete the day-to-day tasks associated with living in the home.
What about gutter cleaning? Whose job is it to clean out those gutters — the landlord’s, or the tenant’s?
This is what happens when the two sides argue about gutter cleaning.
What Does the Lease Say?
The shortest, best answer is: whomever is stipulated in the lease for that chore. Good rental agreements will spell out exactly which tasks must be handled by the tenant and which others fall under the landlord’s purview. Ideally, the lease would stipulate which party is responsible for gutter cleaning (and how often).
But what if the lease doesn’t specifically mention cleaning out gutters?
Is it the Landlord’s Job?
One school of thought states that the landlord should take care of keeping the gutters clean. After all, gutters are part of the home’s external water transport system. Since the upkeep of the residence’s internal water transport system (i.e., its plumbing) is usually left to the landlord, the same logic should apply for the home’s gutters. Plus, it’s not necessarily a good idea for a tenant to be climbing up on a ladder to clean gutters, lest he or she fall, get injured, and file a lawsuit against the property owner (depending on the state where this takes place).
Should the Tenant be Responsible?
On the other hand, many property managers believe that unless the structure is a multi-unit complex (like a duplex or apartment building), the gutters should be kept clean by the people who live in the home. Since gutters should be cleaned at least twice a year, it could be categorized as “regular maintenance” like sidewalk cleaning or light bulb changing. And if the lease places the maintenance of “landscaping” and/or “home exterior” under the list of responsibilities for the tenant, then gutter cleaning would be a natural fit for either category as well.
In addition, laws and regulations governing the rental property tenant/landlord agreement are different in each state, county, city, and even neighborhood. So absent a specific clause in a lease, there is no simple answer to this question. That’s why it’s important that the determination of who should clean the gutters be made before a lease is signed by both parties.
If the lease doesn’t already specify who is responsible for the gutters, there are some ways that the tenant and landlord could come to an agreement on this issue. The landlord may agree to repair and replace gutters as needed if they are kept clean by the tenant. Or perhaps the cost for hiring a gutter cleaner could be split between landlord and tenant. Or perhaps the tenant could be responsible for spring gutter cleaning, while the landlord takes care of that chore every autumn.
If the ultimate goal is to maintain a harmonious tenant/landlord relationship, then every effort should be made to resolve this issue amicably.
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