Turning a home into a rental property requires you to take on many new skills as you become a landlord. Many first-time landlords overlook the costs of important repairs or maintenance on systems in the rental home. Before you let your first tenant move in, make sure you're prepared to handle furnace repairs according to what local law dictates.
Right to a Habitable Living Space
Almost all states require a landlord to keep a rental home a safe place to inhabit for the tenant. This involves keeping any provided heating equipment repaired and functioning, and they may require you to install heating equipment before anyone can move in. Some states even specify a certain temperature the heat must be in the home, such as 65 degrees Fahrenheit in Connecticut.
Reasonable Time for Repairs
The amount of time you have to respond to a tenant's request for heating repair also varies greatly by state. In general, most states have a vaguely worded law about tenants receiving heating repairs within a reasonable time frame. This window is often as short as 48 hours in the winter, but tenants can be expected to wait longer for heating repair in the summer when it's not a necessity. Since you can be expected to pay for emergency HVAC repairs within hours of finding out about a malfunction, you'll need to keep funds on hand to afford the costs since there won't be enough time for finding financing.
Paying for a routine maintenance visit from a heating technician at least once a year is the best way to keep your rental furnace running smoothly. However, you can also stipulate in the lease that the tenant must perform or pay for these maintenance heating services themselves in some states. Even if you require the tenant to handle furnace cleaning and inspection, you will generally still be responsible for paying for repairs that aren't routine maintenance.
Require Tenant to Pay for Damages
While most heating repair costs are the responsibility of the landlord providing the equipment, there is one case in which you can require a tenant to pay instead. If you can prove the tenant damaged the furnace purposefully or accidentally in some way, you can shift the liability onto the tenant instead. Tenants can withhold rent in many states if property owners refuse to make repairs, so make sure you're prepared to go to court to prove the tenant is responsible for the repair.