Put that phone down—these fixes are on you, not your landlord.
Renting is the life … you’re not tied down, and there are no repairs to worry about, right? Well, sort of. While your landlord is expected to handle many fixes, there are others that are on you.
Your lease will often define exactly when and how you should make any repairs. When in doubt, pull out the paperwork. The general rule of thumb is that renters are responsible for repairing any damage that they cause themselves. So if you want to remain on peaceful terms with your landlord, don’t be that renter who calls for help changing a lightbulb.
8 Maintenance Issues Renters Are Responsible For
1. Flea extermination—even if you pay a pet fee
Your pet fee isn’t pet maintenance insurance. Your landlord is responsible for eliminating bugs like roaches and ants, but “not a problem you brought with you,” says Mindy Jensen, community manager and podcast coordinator at Bigger Pockets. Keep anti-flea products in your rental (and on your dog!) to take care of this problem.
2. Carpet stains or floor scratches beyond normal wear and tear
Your landlord expects to repair or replace floors every few years because of regular, everyday use. But if your definition of “everyday use” includes wearing cleats on the carpet and bowling in the kitchen, you should be prepared to fix the floors yourself. Don’t ask your landlord to clean stains from spills, your pets, bleach, or nail polish.
3. Damage to walls or ceilings
It’s one thing to request a paint job after you’ve lived in a place for several years. But landlords don’t have to repair holes you made or repaint to eliminate the cigarette smell after your roommate with a pack-a-day habit moves out. And for major repairs, you should both pay for the work and fess up. Tell your landlord what happened and explain that you’ll rectify the situation with professionals.
4. Broken appliances you’ve misused
If you tend to close the dishwasher with your foot, sooner or later it’s going to break. And your landlord won’t be keen to replace it. “Don’t expect the landlord to repair appliances you’ve misused,” Jensen says. Misuse also includes things like using the wrong type of detergent in a front-loading washer and putting chicken bones or peach pits into the garbage disposal.
5. Locks or windows you broke when you’d lost your keys
It’s true that the law requires your landlord to maintain security by replacing broken locks or windows. But if you’re the one who breaks ’em, you’ll be the one paying for ’em. “The landlord is not responsible for your losing or forgetting your keys,” says Jensen. So next time you get locked out, take the time to call a locksmith or building maintenance, or leave a spare key with a trusted friend or neighbor.
6. Clogged drains
Some clogs are unavoidable or caused by defective plumbing. But when you’ve used your bathtub as a haircut staging area or have gotten overzealous with the toilet paper, that clog’s yours to solve.
To avoid trouble, never use your toilet to toss out kitty’s litter, paper towels, or dental floss. And if you live with kids or invite them over, keep the lid down—you never know what they’ll throw in there. Learn how to use a plunger and liquid drain cleaner, and keep both handy. Otherwise, be prepared to pay a pricey plumber’s bill.
7. A furnace that’s on the fritz because you didn’t change the filters
A basic filter costs less than $10. Changing it out a few times a year is far cheaper and easier than insisting your landlord send over an HVAC pro to tune up or fix your system. If a pro comes over to fix a failed furnace or air conditioner and finds an ancient, clogged filter, they’re going to know right away what caused the problem. Avoid that disaster by doing routine removable filter maintenance yourself.
8. Accidental water damage
Landlords are definitely responsible for repairing flood damage after a major rain storm or a random pipe failure. But don’t expect the landlord to fix the water damage when you’ve left the bathtub running, used the wrong soap in the dishwasher, or repeatedly flushed the clogged toilet till it overflowed. When it comes to flooding, the culprit is typically pretty clear: If it wasn’t Mother Nature, it was probably you.
Originally published on October 4, 2017; updated January 10, 2018.