Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities: The Need-to-Know

Learn about tenants' responsibilities in maintaining a clean and functional living space.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
November 8, 2023
Tenant Maintenance Responsibilities: The Need-to-Know

Tenants and landlords: Do you know your responsibilities when it comes to maintaining your rental?

Daily care and minor fixes fall under the tenant's jurisdiction. For tenants, neglecting these duties can lead to safety hazards, costly repairs and fees, and strained relations between the landlord and tenant.

This guide will empower tenants and landlords to be responsible by outlining tenants' core obligations. We'll go over how to handle basic upkeep while requesting landlord assistance when major repairs are needed.

Follow this advice to keep your rental space in top shape, avoid violations, and for the tenants reading, demonstrate that you're an invested tenant who values protecting your home.

Understanding tenant maintenance responsibilities

Tenant maintenance responsibilities refer to the tasks and duties that tenants must fulfill. These responsibilities are fundamental for keeping their rented property clean, safe, and well-maintained.

These duties are outlined in the lease agreement and may differ depending on the terms and conditions set by the landlord or property management.

What are tenants responsible for maintaining in a rental property?

As a tenant, caring for your rental property is important for a safe and comfortable living environment. Here are some of the maintenance and repair tasks that tenants should be aware of:

  • Cleaning and tidying: Regularly clean common areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces. This includes sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming floors, wiping down surfaces, and cleaning appliances.
  • Waste management: Dispose of waste properly by using designated bins or following the instructions provided by your landlord or property management. Separate recyclables from regular trash and be mindful of any specific waste disposal guidelines in your area.
  • Reporting issues and minor repairs: Report any needed rental property maintenance or repairs to your landlord or property management. This includes problems with plumbing, electrical systems, appliances, or structural damage. If you can, address minor repairs, such as changing light bulbs or unclogging drains.
  • Compliance with housing codes: Read up on your rental unit's local housing codes and regulations. Confirm that your living space meets these codes' minimum safety, sanitation, and habitability standards.
  • Responsible property use: Use the rental property responsibly and refrain from causing damage. Avoid excessive noise, prevent actions that may harm the property, and respect the rights and privacy of other tenants.
  • Following HOA rules: If your rental unit is part of a homeowners' association (HOA), understand its rules and regulations. Follow these guidelines to maintain good relations with neighbors and avoid potential penalties.
  • Landscaping and lawn maintenance: Keep your outdoor area well-maintained. This includes mowing the lawn, weeding garden beds, and removing debris. Follow any guidelines provided by your landlord or property management regarding landscape maintenance.
  • Assuring safety: Take necessary precautions to protect yourself and others in your rental unit. Regularly test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and verify fire extinguishers function properly. Report any safety concerns or hazards to your landlord.
  • Restoring the rental unit: Leave the rental unit in the same condition as when you moved in, apart from normal wear and tear. Clean the unit, repair any damages caused by you or your guests, and remove all personal belongings.

Landlord repair responsibilities

Landlords are responsible for the major repairs in a rental property. Here's a list of the repairs landlords should expect to handle:

  • Structural repairs: The landlord must fix any issues with the building's structure, such as the foundation, walls, roof, or floors. These necessary repairs assure the safety and stability of the property.
  • Plumbing and electrical systems: Landlords should take care of any problems with plumbing systems, like leaks or clogged drains. They're also responsible for repairing faulty electrical wiring or fixtures.
  • Heating and cooling: Property management should confirm that the heating and cooling systems in the rental property are in good, working condition. Any issues with the furnace, HVAC, or air conditioning units are the landlord's responsibility to repair.
  • Safety and security: The landlord must fix any safety concerns in the rental unit, such as broken locks, malfunctioning smoke detectors, or faulty security systems.
  • Common areas: Landlords are responsible for maintaining the hallways, staircases, or elevators. Repairs related to these areas fall under their jurisdiction.

Specific repair responsibilities may vary depending on local laws, lease agreements, and individual circumstances. Consult your local housing authority or seek legal advice for any concerns.

The landlord's timeline for repairs

Get acquainted with the expected timelines for repairs and maintenance tasks that fall under the landlord's responsibility. Here are various categories of repairs and their corresponding expected timelines:

Urgent repairs

Urgent repairs pose an immediate threat to the tenant's health, safety, or security. Examples include gas leaks, major plumbing fixtures issues, electrical failures, or broken locks.

  • Expected timeline: Urgent repairs typically require immediate attention from your landlord. In most cases, landlords must legally address these repairs within 24 to 48 hours of notification.

Non-urgent repairs

Non-urgent repairs are required but do not pose an immediate danger or threat. As such, landlords have a bit more flexibility in their response time. These repairs, such as a leaky faucet, malfunctioning appliances, or minor cosmetic issues, may affect the tenant's comfort or convenience, so they're still important to address.

  • Expected timeline: Typically, landlords address non-urgent repairs within a reasonable timeframe, depending on the complexity and availability of resources. Landlords will likely handle non-urgent repairs within a few days to a few weeks.

Legal requirements

Landlords have legal obligations to maintain the habitability of rental properties. Local housing laws and your lease agreement outline these obligations.

  • Expected Timeline: The timeframe for certain repairs may be defined by local housing laws or regulations. Specific repair deadlines are set in some jurisdictions, and landlords must comply with these requirements. Learn about local laws about repairs to understand the expected timelines in your area.

Tenants should communicate with their landlord to confirm repair requests are documented and addressed on time. As a tenant, if you have concerns about repair delays or believe your landlord fails to fulfill their obligations, you can contact local tenant advocacy organizations for assistance.

What can tenants do if the landlord refuses to repair?

If a landlord refuses to complete a repair, tenants can take matters into their own hands. They should first write to the landlord, explaining the problem and requesting repairs.

If the landlord refuses, tenants can contact local housing authorities or tenant advocacy organizations for guidance and support.

In some cases, tenants can withhold rent or take legal action to assure compliance with the repair obligations. Tenants should know their rights and local laws to ensure their protection.

Understanding your lease agreement

Review the lease agreement to understand your obligations and tenant responsibilities related to maintenance tasks. Communicate with your landlord to clarify any uncertainties.

Do landlords or tenants pay maintenance fees and repair costs?

Landlords are responsible for paying maintenance fees and repair costs for rental properties. They must keep the property in good condition and make sure that everything is working properly.

Tenants are typically responsible for smaller and more day-to-day maintenance tasks and pay a repair fee if the damage in the property exceeds the normal wear and tear.

Consequences when tenants fail to fulfill their responsibilities

As part of the rental agreement, tenants need to take care of their responsibilities when renting a property. If tenants neglect their duties, they may face consequences, such as:

Repair costs

When tenants don't properly maintain the rental property, they may have to pay for repair costs.

  • Security deposit deductions: Landlords can deduct money from the tenant's security deposit to cover repair expenses caused by negligence or failure to maintain the property.
  • Lease violation: Neglecting maintenance responsibilities may violate the lease agreement, which can lead to legal issues, or even eviction, which means finding another place to live.

Safety and health implications

Ignoring maintenance duties can create safety hazards and health risks for both tenants and the property.

  • Safety hazards: If landlords do not address repairs like broken locks, faulty electrical systems, or damaged staircases, they can expose tenants to accidents and injuries.
  • Health risks: Neglecting cleaning, waste disposal, or reporting pest infestations can result in unsanitary living conditions that may harm tenants' health. It can also cause damage to the property and require expensive extermination or cleaning fees.

The landlord's perspective

From the landlord's point of view, tenants not fulfilling their responsibilities can create challenges.

  • Loss of rental income: Tenants may choose to leave if maintenance gets neglected and makes the property unlivable, resulting in a loss of rental property income for the landlord.
  • Increased costs: Neglecting responsibilities can result in more repairs or replacements, which can be costly for the landlord. It can also strain relationships with contractors and service providers.

Tenants and landlords alike should understand that failing to meet their responsibilities when it comes to maintaining a rental property can have serious consequences.

Tenant responsibility for maintenance

Being a responsible tenant means taking care of your living space. You contribute to a clean and comfortable home for yourself and your neighbors by understanding what's expected of you and practicing preventative maintenance.

Always keep things clean, handle minor repairs, take care of the yard, and report major issues to your landlord. Take care of your living space and work together to create a happy and well-maintained community.

Tenant maintenance responsibilities FAQs

What is the biggest responsibility of a tenant?

The biggest responsibility of a tenant is typically to pay rent on time and in full. Rent payment is the primary obligation of a tenant, and failing to do so can lead to various consequences, including eviction. While tenants also have other responsibilities related to property maintenance, safety, and compliance with lease agreements, rent payment is paramount because it ensures that the landlord can maintain the property and cover associated costs.

Who is responsible for appliances in a rental property?

The responsibility for appliances in a rental property depends on the lease terms and local laws, but generally speaking, landlords usually deal with major appliances, verifying they are in good working condition. Meanwhile, tenants typically handle smaller, portable appliances and are responsible for their proper use.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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