Legal Obligations of the Landlord to the Tenant

By Lane V. Erickson, attorney

Most often when people hear about the landlord tenant relationship they focus on the obligations of the tenant. It’s important to understand that the landlord also has obligations. Most of these obligations are set forth in plain language in a written lease agreement. However there are some additional legal requirements that every landlord has in Idaho that are created by their by Statute or by case luck. Here are some of those basic obligations:


A landlord has a duty to supply possession to the tenant pursuant to the terms of the lease, and may be subject to damages for failure to deliver possession of the premises as promised. The general rule is that these damages are the difference between the rental value of the premises and the rent agreed upon for the period during which the lessee is deprived of possession. If there is no difference between the rental value and the agreed rent, or if the latter exceeds the former, the lessee may recover only nominal damages. The lessee may also recover special damages such as rent paid in advance and the cost of the lessee’s removal to another location. 49 AM.JUR.2D, Landlord and Tenant, §§ 397-98.


Under the common law, a landlord was generally not liable to the tenant for any damage resulting from dangerous conditions existing at the time of the leasing. Stephens, 106 Idaho 249. Idaho common law also did not imply a covenant to repair leased premises. Under common law, a landlord could be forced to repair leased premises only if the lease agreement required him to do so.  Worden v. Ordway, 105 Idaho 719 (1983). However, in a recent case, the Idaho Supreme Court stated, “[W]e today decide to leave the common-law rule and its exceptions behind, and we adopt the rule that a landlord is under a duty to exercise reasonable care in light of all the circumstances.” Stephens v. Stearns, 106 Idaho 249 (1984); see also Stevens v. Fleming, 116 Idaho 523 (1989); Phillips v. Erhart, 151 Idaho 100 (2011).


A tenant can recover damages from the landlord based upon negligence. Silver Creek Computers, Inc. v. Petra, Inc., 136 Idaho 879 (2002); Sharp v. W.H. Moore, Inc., 118 Idaho 297 (1990) (also mentioning other bases for imposing a duty of care).


A landlord’s exercise of reasonable care includes the duties listed in I.C. § 6-320. Jesse v. Lindsley, 149 Idaho 70 (2008).

  • Weather Protection. A landlord must provide reasonable waterproofing and weather protection for the leased premises;
  • Utilities. A landlord must maintain in good working order electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, cooling, or sanitary facilities supplied by the landlord;
  • Hazards. A landlord must maintain the leased premises in a manner hazardous to the health or safety of the tenant;
  • Security Deposit. A landlord must return a security deposit as and when required by law;
  • Quiet Enjoyment. A landlord must not breach of any term or provision of the lease or rental agreement materially affecting the health and safety of the tenant, whether explicitly or implicitly a part thereof;
  • Smoke Detectors. A landlord must install approved smoke detectors in each dwelling unit, to include mobile homes, under the landlord’s control.

Landlord and Tenant’s Duties. Landlords must verify that that the smoke detectors are installed and in good working order at the commencement of the rental agreement. The tenant must maintain the smoke detectors in good working order during the rental period. The landlord must use an approved smoke detector as defined by statute. If the landlord fails to provide adequate smoke detectors, the tenant may notify the landlord by certified mail, return receipt requested that, if working smoke detectors are not installed within 72 hours of receipt of the letter, the tenant may install smoke detectors and deduct the cost from the tenant’s next month’s rent. The landlord cannot remove smoke detectors installed by the tenant.

Approved Smoke Detectors. An approved smoke detector is a battery-operated device that is capable of detecting visible or invisible particles of combustion and that bears a label or other identification issued by an approved testing agency having a service for inspection of materials and workmanship at the factory during fabrication and assembly. I.C. § 6-320.

If you are a landlord and have questions concerning your duties and responsibilities, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate questions and will help you solve your Idaho Landlord and Tenant Law and Real Estate needs.

This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer for advice on specific legal issues.

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