Cleaning out and maintaining the gutters on a rental property is often overlooked by both renters and owners. In many cases, residents won’t even think to clean out a home’s gutters until a problem has already occurred. In order to prevent these problems from happening in the first place, every home’s gutters should be cleaned at least once per year. Failing to do so can lead to expensive gutter, roof, and property damage. A clogged gutter can lead to water damage, bird and pest infestations, leakage, and even a cracked foundation. Simply put, neglecting the gutters on a property can lead to a decrease in the home’s value.
So, in a rental situation, who is responsible for gutter maintenance: the owner or the tenant? The answer is actually a bit more complicated than you may think. Gutter maintenance can be a bit of a grey area between tenants and landlords, and you’ll probably find a lot of conflicting opinions on the subject. Let’s take a look at what causes the confusion.
Health and safety regulations
The landlord of a property or house is expected to take care of safety and health regulations for the property and provide tenants with a safe living space. Gutters are a part of the structural integrity of a property, so in this sense it does make sense for landlords or owners to address any chores associated with the gutters. With this in mind, many tenants end up arguing that gutter maintenance and cleaning is the responsibility of landlords. In fact, the U.K. 1985 Landlord and Tenant Act explicitly states that it is the landlord’s duty to keep gutters in working order.
On the other hand, tenants renting out a property or home are expected to behave in a “tenant-like manner.” This means taking care of the day to day cleaning and maintenance duties that are bound to pop up on any property, such as replacing burnt out lightbulbs or plunging a stuffed toilet. Some landlords believe that these duties include gutter maintenance and cleaning. This is where the topic can be become confusing and open for debate. At what point does a dirty or damaged gutter go from a day-to-day cleaning task to a more serious, structural problem for the rental property?
It all comes down to the lease agreement
Ultimately, the only way to clearly determine who is responsible for gutter maintenance and cleaning is to examine the lease agreement signed between tenant and landlord. Many landlords will add a section stating that tenants are solely responsible for the gutters on the rental property. Some tenants have been shocked to see this in their lease, and that is why it is very important to carefully read through your lease, and for that matter every legal document, before signing on the dotted line. Prospective tenants should be discussing the details of a lease agreement as soon as a rental application has been submitted and approved.
While it may make sense for most landlords to simply add a clause in all of their lease agreements that tenants are responsible for gutter maintenance, it is also important to consider just how dangerous cleaning out and maintaining gutters can be. You would be hard-pressed to find a roof gutter that is accessible without the use of a ladder, and landlords need to at least consider the possibility that their tenant could get hurt while addressing any gutter problems. Landlords may want to consider investing in a roof design, such as Everdrain, that is specially designed to reduce gutter buildup and clogging. While some landlords may be hesitant to pay for gutter cleaning services themselves, it would certainly cost less than covering a tenant’s hospital bills and lost wages in the event of an accident.