As an owner of a residential rental property, you already know that you are responsible for paying the property taxes and maintenance costs, but what if your tenant requests upgrades and improvements?
What if they want a new refrigerator, a different style of carpet, or upgrades to the bathroom?
While landlords are always free to perform whatever upgrades they see fit to a rental unit, property improvements that are strictly cosmetic are not required under Maryland law. That means your tenants can’t demand a new set of stainless steel appliances or expect you to paint their living room in the latest trending colors – but they can ask.
In many cases, agreeing to pay for voluntary property improvements can make good financial sense for landlords, especially if the request is coming from a stable, long-term tenant. Providing your tenant with the upgrades they want can be a win-win situation – they’re likely to stay in their unit, and you won’t have to worry about filling a vacancy.
Temporary Improvement or Permanent Fixture?
Whether or not a property improvement is considered to be temporary or permanent can also be a source of conflict between landlords and tenants, especially in situations where a tenant has lived in a rental unit for an extended period of time.
For example, your tenant may decide to take it upon themselves to go ahead and install screens over the windows to keep insects outside during the summer months. Under Maryland law, those screens are considered to be “fixtures” that are now regarded as being an integral part of your property – that means your tenant must leave the screens in place when they move out.
If your tenant has voluntarily performed improvements to your rental property and they decide to ask you to reimburse them for their out-of-pocket expenses, in most cases you are under no obligation to pay your tenant.
Generally speaking, Maryland landlord and tenant law requires tenants to obtain written consent prior to incurring costs on behalf of the property owner, otherwise, the tenant is likely to lose any lawsuit aimed at recouping their costs.
When In Doubt, Create A Contract
It is always advisable to put any agreement regarding improvements, repairs, or modifications to your property with your tenant in writing, even if the issue at hand seems minor.
Clear documentation that outlines what work is to be done, who will complete the work, and most importantly, who is responsible for the costs can go a long way towards preventing conflict with your tenants.
For more information on navigating Maryland’s Landlord/Tenant Law, feel free to contact Bay Property Management Group Baltimore today!