Maintenance is essential to continuing to earn money from your investment property. Regular repairs and renovations will ensure your property remains appealing to tenants and prevent minor issues from becoming expensive problems.
Deciding to renovate comes with a few challenges, particularly for a multi-unit property. As a landlord, you want to be able to perform renovations without disrupting your tenants more than necessary. You also need to know your tenants’ rights during building work. We take a look at some crucial tenant rights during multi-unit renovations below.
Eight Essential Tenant Rights During Renovations
There are many reasons you might want to renovate — improving the value of your property, fixing any areas of concern or just giving your property a new look. While renovations are essential, you must keep your tenants’ rights in mind. These rights revolve around providing your tenants with the safety, access and security their lease guarantees.
1. Safe Place to Live
The Massachusetts Sanitary Code dictates the requirements for a safe living place. These requirements ensure that tenants have a comfortable, clean home that will not harm those living there.
Renovations may not always go smoothly — you may find yourself facing an unforeseen accident that makes the property less habitable. If that is the case, it is crucial to make repairs as soon as possible. Regular renovations and maintenance can also prevent any degradation and maintain the status of your property.
2. Right to Access
Any renovations you plan need to allow your tenant adequate access to their property. While tenants may have limited access to certain areas during the repairs, they need to be able to get in and out of the property easily.
Tenants should also have reasonable access to the essential parts of the house, such as bathrooms, the kitchen and their bedrooms. Ensure the repairs, construction materials, contractors’ vehicles and workers stay clear of the tenants’ access points.
3. Landlord Construction Notice
Landlords need to give tenants reasonable notice of any construction to limit disruptions during renovations. Construction and repairs will inevitably cause some disturbance, so tenants must be aware of any work. Only start repairs once you have notified your tenants, even if the repairs are in empty units.
The covenant of quiet enjoyment implied in a lease means that landlords must refrain from actions that interrupt the tenants’ enjoyment. This covenant mainly refers to significant disturbances, which may or may not apply based on the scope of your renovations.
4. Eviction Limitations
Landlords can’t evict tenants to start or continue renovations. Unless you have a legal reason to remove them, tenants must remain in their units. If renovations to their units are absolutely necessary, you can discuss having them move to another unit for the duration.
5. Landlord Access
Landlords can only enter a property without tenant approval if:
- The tenant appears to have abandoned the property.
- There is an emergency that may cause damage to the rest of the building.
If your renovations require access to a unit, ensure you communicate with your tenant about when contractors can access their home for maintenance and repairs.
You may have to compensate your tenant for any damage that renovations cause to your tenant’s property, especially if they can prove the damage left them financially worse off.
7. Rent Payment
Tenants have to pay full rent during construction unless you reach a different agreement. If you agree to a temporarily lower rate, ensure you have the terms in writing with all parties’ signatures.
However, when construction causes unforeseen complications, the Massachusetts Sanitary Code may allow a tenant to withhold rent if:
- They’ve reported issues that make their home unsafe.
- The landlord hasn’t taken steps to fix the problem within a reasonable time.
While the landlord has five days to begin repairs and 14 days to complete them, specific issues may require swifter action. For example, Massachusetts law requires residential temperatures of at least 64 degrees at night in winter, so reports of broken heating units should receive top priority.
Preparing for Renovations
Before you tackle renovations, there are a few considerations to keep in mind as a landlord:
- Review the lease: The best thing to do is look at the lease, as each one can be slightly different, especially concerning renovations. As a legally binding contract, the lease you and your tenant agreed to will set out the agreements you must follow.
- Consider the extent of the renovations: Consider what type of renovations are taking place — the urgency and scope of the upgrades will inform how you handle them. Comprehensive renovations will require a lot of communication with your tenants and the possibility of moving them into available units. If the renovations are less urgent than you initially believed, you can wait until the unit frees up to complete the renovations.
- Understand everyone’s rights: You need to understand both your rights as a landlord and your tenants’ rights. You have the right to renovate your property and your tenants have the right to the space stated in their lease. While some states have different laws that govern tenant and landlord relationships, tenants have certain rights across the country. You’ll need to be fully aware of these rights and regulations to ensure your renovation process is lawful.
Three Tips for Renovating With Tenants
Now that you know what rights tenants have when it comes to renovations, here are a few tips to renovate without disrupting tenants:
- Communicate: Give your tenants plenty of notice about the work you want to do on their unit or the ones around them. Let them know the potential timeline and constantly communicate with them about any delays. Ensure you don’t over-promise, though — be realistic with timelines and answer any questions they may have about the work.
- Offer rent reduction: Offering your tenants a reduction in rent during renovations can help ease the process, particularly if access to certain areas will be restricted. It’s also a way to show you appreciate their ongoing support during the construction.
- Leverage empty units: Start by renovating any open units first. Alternatively, offer tenants temporary relocation to vacant units so you can complete the work on theirs. It can become a permanent relocation if they discover that they prefer the new unit.
Renovate With Beantown Builders
Any repair and renovation work aims to improve the quality of your property. Beantown Builders offers comprehensive multi-unit renovation services. Our experienced team will work with you to make sure you can complete your renovations with as little disruption to tenants as possible. We will update you at all times on our progress so that you can keep your tenants in the loop.