Who’s Responsible for Rental Repairs—the Landlord or Tenant?

Plumber Fixing Pipes Under SinkIf you’re renting a place to live rather than buying the home, you may be enjoying the benefit of not having to perform the maintenance and repairs since it’s not your property. Sure, if a lightbulb’s burnt out or the smoke detector needs new batteries, you can and will handle it. But when it comes to larger projects and more serious issues, who’s physically and financially responsible for the rental repairs—you or your landlord? Well, it depends on the issue and who or what caused it. Let’s take a closer look at key distinctions.

What Rental Repairs are the Landlord Responsible For?

Speaking broadly, landlords are responsible for ensuring that the units they rent out are safe and habitable. Anything pertaining to the structure of the house or building—including electrical wiring, HVAC systems, pipes, windows and doors, and plumbing—are all under their scope of duty. A good rule of thumb is that if it was already part of the leased space when you moved in—like the floors, walls, ceiling, lighting fixtures, and major appliances—then its repair is usually the property owner’s obligation. Here are some examples of problems they’re expected to take care of:

  • Burst or frozen pipes
  • A malfunctioning heating system
  • Broken or old locks on doors and windows
  • A worn-out refrigerator
  • A leaky roof

Problems that arise from normal wear and tear, like in the example of the worn-out refrigerator, fall under the landlord’s authority to fix or replace.

What Rental Repairs are the Tenant Responsible For?

Tenants are responsible for maintaining the unit—keeping it clean and in good repair—and promptly alerting the property owner to any significant issues. Your end of the deal includes regular cleaning and proper disposal of trash, as well as preventing excessive damage (damage outside of normal wear and tear). This means any problem or damage caused by misuse or neglect while you occupied the space would be your responsibility to fix. Here are some examples of issues that you as a tenant would have to take control of resolving:

  • Clogged drains/toilets you caused
  • Carpet stains from spilled food/beverage
  • Odor and mold from a pet’s bathroom accidents and flea infestations caused by pet
  • Holes in the wall from furniture/hanging items
  • A broken dryer due to not cleaning the lint trap

While these are exemplary shortlists, you can find a more exhaustive breakdown of the rental repair responsibilities of landlords and tenants in our whitepaper: Are You or Your Landlord Responsible for Apartment Damages?

Other Rental Maintenance Responsibilities

Necessary repairs aside, there are regular property maintenance tasks to consider. Depending on the rental agreement, these chores—such as mowing the grass, cleaning the gutters, raking leaves, shoveling snow, and putting down salt—could be either your or the landlord’s responsibility. If not already in writing, it’s important to discuss and mutually agree on who will be taking ownership of these duties. Note that rental betterments and improvements are their own can of worms. Repairs are necessary fixes, while betterments and improvements can be thought of as upgrades or renovations.

The best thing you can do as a renter to avoid confusion over rental repair responsibilities is to read your lease agreement carefully before signing and keep it handy should you need to revisit it. Moreover, it’s always a good idea to pay a small premium for renters insurance to protect yourself and your belongings. Remember: just because your landlord has insurance on the property doesn’t mean your things are protected under their coverage. Contact a TJ Woods agent today to discuss the coverage we have available for renters or to learn about what your existing policy does and doesn’t cover.