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How to Know if Your Rental Meets Safety Standards

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Realty Management Associates rental safety

As a landlord, you have a responsibility to ensure that your tenant lives in a habitable rental unit. A habitable rental unit is safe to live in and failing in your responsibility to provide this can lead to serious consequences. 

Your tenant could move out of the rental without further obligations to the lease or file a lawsuit against you. Your tenant could also choose to exercise their right to “repair and deduct” meaning they fix the issue by themselves and then deduct the cost from the rent payments. 

The best way to ensure your investment property meets all safety standards mandated by state and local laws is through regular inspections. Rental inspections cannot only help protect your interests but those of your tenant as well. 

For best results, it’s recommended that you have an inspection checklist in place. This can help you know with specific items you should be looking for. 

The following are some of the things your checklist should have. 

1. Smoke Detectors

Most states have laws regarding smoke alarms, and Idaho is no exception. According to Idaho’s Fire code, only single and multiple-station smoke alarms that comply with UL 217 should be installed. 

check smoke detectors in rentals

The smoke alarms must also be installed in certain areas of the property, including sleeping areas and in each story within a sleeping unit. 

To ensure your smoke detectors are in working order, inspect them once every year. During the inspection, all you may need to do is press and hold the test button. A loud, siren should emanate from the detector. If the sound is weak or non-existent, the batteries may need to be replaced. 

Besides a smoke detector, Idaho laws also require that residential buildings have carbon monoxide detectors installed. So, consider buying a combined unit to save you the hassle of keeping track of both of them. 

2. Ground Fault Interrupting (GFI) Outlets 

Your Idaho rental unit needs to have GFI outlets. You should have them installed in different locations, such as laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchens. Many older homes don’t have these safety devices installed, which increases the risk of fires and electrocution. 

If a fire is caused by a non-GFI outlet in an area where one is required by law, your landlord’s insurance policy won’t cover the damage. 

3. Appliances

Landlords have certain responsibilities under a lease or rental agreement. One of these responsibilities is ensuring that all appliances are in good working order if you provide them. 

home appliance inspections
  • Washing Machine. If you do provide it, then make sure it’s always in good working condition. During the inspection, check the lint trap for build-up. You should also run the machine on an empty cycle with a cup of white vinegar or washing machine cleaner. 
  • Water Heater. Check for water leaks. Do you hear water rushing or dripping? If so, a leak may be apparent. Call a plumber right away. 
  • HVAC System. Your exterior home inspection checklist should include the HVAC system. There are a couple of things you may need to do including, evaluating proper airflow, inspecting air filters, and running a thermostat test. 

For other appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators, and microwaves check the manufacturer manual to know when each should be inspected. 

4. Pest Infestation

A pest infestation at your rental property may also impact your tenant’s health and safety. Examples of common pests include cockroaches, ants, termites, rats, and mice. The responsibility for pest removal depends on the cause of the issue. 

Your tenant can create conditions that attract pests to their units. For example, by leaving food around or by not emptying the garbage receptacles on time. In such cases, the responsibility for pest removal would lie squarely with your tenant. 

On the other hand, that responsibility becomes yours if the infestation is caused by natural circumstances. For example, if the rental unit is located near a grassy field and your tenant reports mice. In such a case, you’ll need to make arrangements for the extermination and pay for it. 

lead-based paint disclosures

5. Lead-Based Paint 

Was your rental property built before 1978? If so, chances are that your rental unit contains lead-based paint. That’s because, before 1978, lead was a common ingredient in interior paint. But studies showed that lead-based paint wasn’t safe and its use was consequently banned. 

It’s no wonder then that most U.S. states require landlords to make disclosures on lead-based paint. In Idaho, specifically, you must even include a warning in the lease and give your tenants a copy of the EPA’s pamphlets in regards to lead-based paint. 

6. Doors & Windows 

You have a responsibility to provide a safe and secure unit to your tenants. Matter of fact, you run the risk of getting sued by your tenant if a burglar breaks into the rental property. To avoid such a possibility, ensure that all doors and windows have a good locking mechanism. 

You’ll also want to change all locks or rekey them whenever you experience tenant turnover. In addition, have a clause in your lease that prevents tenants from duplicating their keys. And if you have the budget for it, consider installing an alarm system. 


The safety of your tenants is key. Always inspect your rental property regularly to ensure it meets all applicable state and local safety codes. What’s more, you should communicate with and listen to your tenants to ensure that their needs are being met. This will help keep your property in top condition and reduce tenant turnover.

To learn more about rental safety standards in Boise, get in touch with Realty Management Associates, Inc. today!