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Is My Landlord Reponsible for Repairs?

Woman calling her landlord to repair a drain issue

Landlords are generally responsible for repairing problems that affect your ability to live in or enjoy your apartment/rental. But it's not as easy as saying a landlord is responsible for repairing everything that goes wrong. So when is your landlord responsible for repairs?

When you rent, your landlord is responsible for maintaining the functional aspects of your home such as plumbing, electricity, and heating. Landlords must also generally take action when flooding, a clogged pipe, pest infestation, or other problems occur.

Can You Sue Your Landlord for Not Fixing Things?

In most situations, you'll want to resolve the issue by simply communicating with your landlord. But if your landlord refuses to repair the issue, or simply ignores you, it is helpful to understand your legal rights.

Your landlord's responsibilities result from a number of different sources. The lease agreement, building codes, and state laws dictate many of the basic rights and responsibilities that exist between landlords and tenants. The basics of a landlord's maintenance responsibilities are highlighted below. See our Tenant Rights section for additional articles.

Lease Agreements and State Laws

Check whether your lease or rental agreement requires the landlord to repair the particular issue you've discovered in your rental unit. If the contract does not appear to require this or simply doesn't address the issue, check the real estate law of your state (as well as local laws) to see whether the law forces the landlord to pay for the repairs in question. Landlords are typically required to make repairs to big problems. These include major repairs such as structural, electrical, and plumbing repairs.

If your landlord fails to pay or does not respond, you may wish to look into other possibilities such as contacting the local housing authority or filing a claim in small claims court. How you proceed will likely depend on the nature and extent of the issue, local laws and regulations, and the attitude of the landlord. Your actions should be carefully considered to avoid unnecessary conflict and expense.

Minor Issues

As far as minor issues go, who is responsible for repairs depends on a number of factors, primarily the lease, as well as local and state laws. If you find that the landlord is required to pay for the repairs, make your repair request to the landlord in writing to ensure that there is a record of your efforts to work the issue out with the landlord.

Repair and Deduct

One option that may be available is called "repair and deduct". Some local and state laws allow renters to hire someone to make repairs, and then deduct the cost from the rent.

It is important to note, however, that this option is not always available (for example, for minor repairs), and typically requires that you provide the landlord adequate notice prior to its use. You also may need to give the landlord a reasonable time to make the repairs. If you intend to repair and deduct, you should carefully examine the relevant local laws to ensure that you follow the procedural requirements of your state.

Have Questions About a Landlord's Responsibility for Repairs? Ask a Lawyer

Disputes between landlords and tenants can be unnecessarily contentious and costly for everyone involved. Generally speaking, when you know your rights, it's much easier to reach a reasonable resolution to the dispute. Contact a local landlord-tenant attorney to get legal advice about both landlord and tenant responsibilities when it comes to rental property.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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