A landlord has ultimate responsibility for the rental property, but the tenant shares the burden of maintaining the premises as it was presented to them when they took possession. Every state will detail a list of responsibilities for the landlord and the tenant, which should be written into the rental agreement.
First and foremost, the landlord must make sure the premises is fit for human habitation, and make all repairs and efforts to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition. The landlord must also make sure the premises meets the requirements of all applicable building and housing codes that affect health and safety which were in effect at the time of original construction (for properties where construction was completed after July 1, 1977). As per MCA 70-24-303, other responsibilities of the landlord include:
- Not knowingly allow the tenant or another person to engage in any activity on the premises that has the potential to damage or destroy the premises, or that may injure neighboring tenants.
- Maintain all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.
- Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC, and other facilities and appliances that are supplied by the landlord.
- Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the tenant’s occupancy of the premises, plus arrange for their removal.
- Ensure a supply of running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat between October 1 and May 1, as long as the building where the premises is located is required by law to be equipped with such services, or if the premises has heat or hot water that is within the exclusive control of the tenant.
- Carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector - both must be installed and confirmed to be in good working order at the start of a tenancy. The tenant is responsible for maintaining the carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector during the tenancy and informing landlord of any problems with either device.
The overriding principle for tenant responsibilities is that the landlord has provided a fit and habitable residence, and the tenant must make the effort to keep it that way. The tenant must refrain from intentional or negligent behavior that would destroy, deface, damage impair or remove any part of the premises, and they must not allow any person to do the same. Other more specific obligations of the tenant include, as Per MCA 70-24-321:
- Comply with all obligations primarily imposed on tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes that materially affect health and safety.
- Keep the rented premises as reasonably clean and safe as conditions permit.
- Dispose of all ashes, garbage and other waste in a clean and safe manner.
- Keep all plumbing fixtures in the premises or used by tenant as clean as their condition permits.
- Use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC, and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner.
- Use care to not disturb the neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment, and require guests and invitees to do the same.
- Use the premises in a reasonable manner, considering the purposes for which they were designed and intended. The tenant can still operate a limited business or cottage industry on the premises, subject to state and local laws, if the landlord has consented in writing.
The landlord and tenant can agree in writing that the tenant handle some of the maintenance obligations of the tenant, but only if the premises is a one-, two-, or three-family residence and the written agreement is made in good faith and does not serve as a way for the landlord to dodge their responsibilities. Such an agreement is limited to specifically stated repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations, and remodeling.