Whether you own a rental property or plan to inhabit one, learn who holds responsibility for common maintenance issues before signing a lease.
Maintenance Responsibilities Typically Outlined in Lease Agreements
- Plumbing, heating and air conditioning - The landlord must keep these systems in working order, as fixing any of them qualifies as a major repair. The residential lease agreement may assign responsibility for keeping pipes clear and replacing air filters as necessary to the tenant.
- Sprinkler systems, fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors - Such safety measures must be kept in working order by the landlord, but the lease may assign responsibility for replacement of batteries when needed to the tenant.
- Exterior door and window locks - By law, the landlord also holds responsibility for these safety measures.
- Management of known toxins - Federal law dictates that the landlord must warn the tenant of the presence of lead paint dust, asbestos and mold in the rental property and that the landlord must manage such toxins to ensure they do not pose a health danger to the tenant.
- Appliances - If the rental lease agreement includes mention of an appliance, the landlord must keep it in working order. If the tenant causes damage to the appliance, however, the landlord may deduct the amount paid for repair from the security deposit.
- Pest control - The landlord also must take responsibility for this area of maintenance, but the tenant must keep the property sanitary as to not invite infestation. If the tenant does not keep a clean home, the landlord may deduct the amount paid for extermination from the tenant's security deposit per the lease.
- Landscaping - Who holds responsibility for maintenance of the rental property's lawn and other greenery could fall on the landlord or the tenant per the lease agreement. Ultimately, though, the landlord has responsibility for an unmaintained property if it violates local laws or homeowners' association rules. If the landlord assigned landscaping maintenance to the tenant in the lease, though, the landlord may pass on to the tenant any fines by deducting them from the security deposit.
- Common areas - The landlord must keep all common areas of a multi-unit residential property safe and clean, providing appropriate trash receptacles and arranging for regular pickup. Elevators and other common-use systems also fall under a landlord's area of responsibility.
Procedures for Requesting Maintenance
Residential lease agreements typically include procedures for requesting maintenance, both major and minor. The landlord may request that all requests be submitted in writing, or the lease may instruct the tenant to call a management company with any requests. The landlord also may request that the tenant coordinates and pays for any approved minor repairs, the cost of which may then be deducted from the next month's rent.
Resolution of Maintenance Requests
The landlord must resolve major maintenance requests, like a faulty air conditioner, in a timely manner or face violation of applicable landlord-tenant laws or building and housing codes. The tenant, though, has a responsibility to let the landlord know of needed major repairs immediately; if the cost of the repair increases significantly because of inaction on the tenant's part, the landlord may deduct partial cost of the repairs from the security deposit per the lease.
The landlord has more leeway when it comes to resolving minor maintenance issues, like a broken icemaker in a refrigerator, while cosmetic repairs, like chipped paint, may be put off until the tenant moves out.
Finding Additional Information
As noted above, state and city laws as well as local building and housing codes dictate much of where responsibility falls for rental property maintenance. If you are a property owner, familiarize yourself with local landlord responsibilities before putting together rental lease agreements. If you are a potential tenant, learn both the landlord and tenant responsibilities before signing a lease, in case you need to request revisions.
The local building or housing authority in your area provides information to both landlords and tenants, and local city and state government websites also serve as excellent resources.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.