10 Repairs that aren’t your Landlord’s Responsibility
Find out who is responsible for repairs and maintenance in your rented home.
As a tenant you’re typically not responsible for any major home improvements for your rental home, such as repairing a leaky roof or updating carpets and appliances. However, not all damages to the home are your landlord’s responsibility. Below is a list of some home repairs that aren’t your landlord’s responsibility, so you should be prepared to handle them.
1. Replacing light bulbs, batteries, and HVAC filters
During the course of your tenancy, failed light bulbs are a tenant’s responsibility to change. The same is true for replacing batteries for smoke and CO2 detectors. Tenants are also required to replace air filter in HVAC systems every few months or so (sometimes filters will be provided by the landlord). It’s important to check whether this in your lease to avoid confusion about who’s supposed to handle what part of the home’s safety and upkeep.
2. Unclogging backed-up drains that you caused
Never throw potato skins or egg shells down the garbage disposal if you don’t want to clog the sink. When this happens, it won’t be the responsibility of the landlord anymore. The same goes when foreign items are flushed down the toilet. Unclog it yourself or call a plumber before the clog turns into a bigger problem. While you’re at it, practice other cleaning habits, too, such as removing hair from drains to keep pipes in working order. If your landlord ends up doing this for you, they have every legal right to demand payment from you for the maintenance.
3. Pest infestations
Make sure that the house you’re moving into doesn’t have any existing pest infestation problems before signing the lease. Don’t just take the landlord’s word for it — verify this on your own!
Once you move in, you’ll often be responsible for any subsequent pest problems due to your lack of cleanliness or improperly leaving garage outside.
Termites, on the other hand, can infest any building regardless of your living habits. Pest issues like this will be shouldered by the landlord.
4. Lawn care and snow shoveling at single-family homes
Unless your landlord agreed to handle the mowing and snow shoveling in the single-family home you’re renting, you really need to get out there and do it yourself. While you can put off mowing the lawn for a few days, most cities require sidewalks be shoveled within a few hours after a snowstorm stops. Failure to take care of the lawn or snow may result in fines from the city, that the landlord can charge you for.
If you’re renting in a multi-unit residence, the landlord will usually address the lawn, but not always the snow. So check your lease agreement to confirm what you need to do.
5. Negligence resulting in damage to the property
Good tenants take responsibility for damages caused by their own negligence. Your landlord is not responsible for your clumsiness or even that of your family members or guests. If your kids draw on the walls, someone puts a hole in a wall or breaks a window, you are responsible for the damage. If you don’t repair the issue in a professional manner, the landlord can legally have it repaired and bill you for the cost.
6. Carpet cleaning and repainting
Carpeting should last 5-7 years, so don’t expect your landlord to replace it if you caused the damage or wore it out faster. The same goes for paint, which should last 3-5 years.
If you choose to repaint during your tenancy, be sure to repaint to the original color(s) when you move out. Remember to contact your landlord before doing any painting and get any agreements or approvals in writing.
7. Damages caused by pets
Although most pet owners are responsible tenants, property damages caused by pets often occur. Tenants can be held legally responsible for most types of pet damages including: scratch marks around the house, chewed wooden fixtures or trim, carpet odors and destroyed landscaping.
8. Malfunction of appliances due to misuse
If any appliance in your rental just stops working, let your landlord know ASAP. Often, they are responsible for appliance repair or replacement. However, if the tenant used the appliances improperly, that shifts the responsibility to them. The rule with appliances in your rental is simple: you break it, you fix it.
9. Holes in the wall from frames and shelving installed by tenants
Note: Holes in the walls are not wear and tear. The tenant is responsible for repairing any holes he or she has made, even if that means using the security deposit to do so.
10. Anything and everything else outlined in the lease
Read your lease carefully before signing. Every landlord/tenant responsibility is outlined in the rental agreement. Review it when issues arise so you can quickly assess whether or not the financial responsibility on the repairs to your rental falls on you. If you feel like something outlined should be the landlord’s responsibility, discuss it early on so a revision to the lease can be made.