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Landlords vs. Tenants: Who is Responsible for Maintenance?

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Marina Shlomov - Monday, October 26, 2015

Landlords vs. Tenants: Who is Responsible for Maintenance?

Landlords and tenants both often find themselves vague on the rules regarding maintenance. Many tenants don’t mind performing small maintenance duties, such as changing air filters, but they aren’t sure what’s required of them. On the other end, landlords might not want their tenants performing maintenance duties for various reasons. When it comes down to it, who is actually responsible for maintenance to the property?

Maintenance for Tenants

Generally speaking, tenants are required to keep their rental properties clean and sanitary. This can mean that the tenant should be taking care of bug infestations that weren’t present before they moved in. Tenants are also generally expected to fix the things they break. Normal wear and tear, however, wouldn’t fall under this umbrella. If a tenant breaks a window, however, they can be expected to pay the bill.

When it comes to general maintenance, tenants should keep their rental properties in clean working order. If they spot a problem, the tenant should notify the landlord as soon as possible. The tenant should keep plumbing fixtures including; sinks, disposals, and toilets as clean as possible to ensure they continued working properly. When it comes to general maintenance, the tenant will not be responsible unless the damage was done by the tenant; (holes created in the walls, broken windows, broken tiles, broken fixtures, ect).

Maintenance for Landlords

The burden of maintenance generally falls upon landlords. There are some maintenance items that can be included in a lease, but landlords should generally perform necessary maintenance.

Prior to a new tenant moving in, the landlord is required to get the rental in habitable condition by performing maintenance that ensures the property has sufficient power, water, and heat. It must also be clean and structurally in good shape.

Landlords are also required to make sure their properties are always up to code. Many states have additional laws that are put into place to ensure the safety of tenants. For instance, landlords in multiple states are required to make sure that windows and doors can securely lock. Lighting and ventilation are also maintenance considerations that landlords are accountable for.

Tenants might sometimes offer to do maintenance in exchange for a reduction in rent. The landlord can accept or deny this offer. If the tenant does a poor job, the landlord typically has the right to rescind their side of the offer. In this case, the landlord must ensure that the maintenance is complete.

State laws also vary, but maintenance must be carried out in a timely manner. If the tenant is forced to hire a contractor for maintenance, the landlord is generally responsible for the bill. Of course, if the maintenance is due to something the tenant did in error, then this doesn’t apply.

As you can see, the roles of the tenant and landlord in maintenance are fairly simple. Tenants are lawfully required to keep their rental properties clean and in good shape, and if they cause a damage on a property, they are responsible for the bill. 

Landlords are required to make sure properties are habitable, meaning that maintenance must be performed in a timely manner. In between tenants, properties should be carefully inspected to ensure they are clean, in good order, habitable, and up to code. 

Some maintenance items can be worked into a lease, but ultimately, the landlord will be responsible.

Marina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Realty & Rental Homes Property Management is the author of many articles on Landlording, Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out at You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on FacebookGoogle+, Blogger. and YouTube, Bigger Pockets and REI CLub and LinkedIn.

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