Renters - Who foots the bill when the maintenance issues roll in?
Updated: Dec 26, 2018
It depends, so get to know your tenant rights.
One of renting’s major benefits is that you don’t have to worry about upkeep, maintenance and expensive repairs. So when things go bad — your dishwasher stops working, the roof is leaking or the bugs just won’t go away — your first call is usually your landlord.
But how do you know what’s really their responsibility and what falls to you? And what do you do if they refuse to handle the repairs?
Read on for the most common rental issues and how to get them fixed quickly.
Water damage & mold
Easily one of the nastiest discoveries you can find in your home, mold is a common problem — especially in humid or rainy climates. And while most mold doesn’t cause health problems, some types can cause respiratory issues, headaches and allergy symptoms.
Since there’s no easy way for the average tenant to know if the mold in their home is dangerous or not, it’s always best to ask your landlord to get rid of it.
While there’s no federal law that dictates mold exposure limits in rental housing, some states and cities have put guidelines in place. But, even if your state doesn’t have specific mold regulations, your landlord is still responsible for providing safe, livable housing.
In addition to requesting that your landlord remove the mold, make sure they find the source of the mold, whether it’s a leak in the roof or around the windows, failing plumbing, or a basement that’s not watertight. If the underlying water damage isn’t addressed, the mold will likely return.
The one time a landlord may be able to reject your request for mold remediation is if they believe it’s a result of your behavior — if you don’t keep your home well-ventilated, don’t clean regularly or run a humidifier too much.
Your landlord is responsible for keeping any appliances that came with the unit in good working order. They’re also required to do the preventive maintenance that keeps your appliances up and running, like replacing worn hoses or servicing the air conditioner.
If you brought some of your own appliances, like a microwave or a washer and dryer, you’re typically responsible for repairing and replacing them.
Perhaps the most important appliance your landlord is responsible for is your furnace. Local and state laws require landlords to provide adequate heating, so if you’re having trouble keeping your home warm, reach out to your landlord immediately.
In some warm-weather states, landlords are also required to provide air conditioning. It may not be required in other states, but if your unit has air conditioning, your landlord is required to maintain it.
Remember when we said that landlords are required to provide tenants with a safe, livable space? That includes pest-free living, but there are a few more gray areas with pests than with other maintenance issues.
Whether your landlord is responsible or not depends on a few factors, including the state you live in, the type of rental unit and the type of pest. For example, in some states (but not others), landlords are legally required to manage bedbug infestations, which are an increasingly common issue.
In some states, landlords are responsible for all pest control, unless you’re renting a single-family home and they can prove that the pests are a result of you not keeping your home clean.
No matter where you live and what local and state regulations are, let your landlord know about any kind of pest as soon as possible. A good landlord should want to address these issues quickly to avoid having them spread to different units.
What if my landlord isn’t cooperating?
In a perfect world, your landlord would fix every problem, without issue, in a timely manner. But in the real world, that doesn’t always happen.
Consider these tips for getting landlord repair issues handled quickly and completely:
Report even small issues. That tiny leak under your bathroom sink may not seem like a big deal now, but it could cause a serious mold problem down the road. Always let your landlord know about issues as soon as you notice them, before they can get worse.
Make repair requests in writing. Don’t make repair requests verbally. Instead, send them via email so you have a paper trail and documentation with a date and time stamp.
Always have renters insurance. It’s an affordable way to protect your belongings in case of damage caused by landlord negligence, plus a variety of other issues. It’s typically very affordable and can be purchased online in a matter of minutes.
Reread your lease. You (hopefully!) read your lease when you first signed it, but if you’re having issues with your landlord refusing to do repairs, take another look at your lease paperwork and see what they — and you — have already agreed to.
Get help from a local tenants’ rights organization. If your landlord isn’t addressing major repair issues, find a local tenants’ rights organization on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website. They can help you identify local and state laws that apply to your situation and provide resources for additional assistance.