When Is a Tenant Responsible for Repairs?

There are many benefits that come from renting a home or apartment. After all, renters have access to amenities and they don’t have to pay for repairs or fixes, let alone repair or fix things themselves, right?

Tenant Responsible for Repairs

Well, that’s the big question: when is a tenant responsible for repairs?

Basic information

The short answer is that every renter’s situation is different because all renters have their own lease agreements with different property owners and landlords. Therefore, if something breaks or wears down (which appliances inevitably will over time), tenants should talk to their property owners to see if they can make repairs, and of course, refer to their lease agreements.

Tenants should also check their state laws — no matter what the lease agreement says — to ensure property owners are within their rights. With that said, it’s best to take this step before signing a lease and to bring up any questions during that process. Having a lawyer look over a lease is beneficial for tenants and landlords alike.

Specific examples

It’s the landlord’s duty to ensure the apartment is livable, and he or she must make all fixes and repairs accordingly. This could include a broken water heater, a gas or water leak, or anything else that could affect the home’s habitability. Reputable landlords and companies will typically take care of all of their tenants’ needs, depending on the circumstances.

For example, a large apartment complex might repair the water filter in a fridge, blinds for the windows, light bulbs (although this isn’t always the case), and more serious issues, such as if the air conditioner is leaking water. Companies like Turbo Tenant offer software to landlords and property managers to help them efficiently manage all their tenants and issues like these.

However, if the tenant breaks something, such as a window while throwing a baseball, then it will likely be the tenant’s responsibility to call a repair person, or the apartment complex might charge a fee after they have fixed the window. Even still, it does depend on what the lease agreement states and local laws.

Typically, if the tenant, pet, friend, or family member causes an issue, then the landlord isn’t held reliable. But depending on how big of a problem it is, it’s not out of the question for the landlord to fix the problem.

More common responsibilities

In most cases, items and appliances that fail or break due to wear and tear are expected to be repaired/fixed by the landlord. It’s important that tenants tell their landlords about small issues so they can be fixed before larger problems arise. However, if it’s a cosmetic issue, then the landlord might not be liable to fix his or her tenant’s issues.

In certain states, tenants have the right to pay for an item or appliance to be repaired and then deduct the cost from the rent. But this is when habitability is being affected. It doesn’t relate to cosmetic issues that have no effect on the well-being of the tenant.

A rental agreement should clearly state what the landlord and tenant are responsible for, but both parties should still check with local and state laws if they have any questions or concerns. Ideally, it’s best to have a dialogue with your tenants and be as transparent as possible with them. Both parties have rights and should meet the agreements that are mapped out in the lease.