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Is My Landlord Reponsible for Repairs?

Woman calling her landlord to repair a drain issue

Yes, landlords must generally repair problems affecting your rental's habitability. But it's too simplistic to say the landlord must repair everything that goes wrong. So, when is your landlord responsible for repairs?

Whether the tenant or landlord must repair a problem depends on the lease and local and state laws.

Lease Agreements and State Laws

When there's an issue in your rental, check your lease to see if the repair is your landlord's responsibility. Check your state and local real estate laws if the lease doesn't answer the question.

Create a record of your attempt to resolve the issue by making repair requests to your landlord in writing. This record can help resolve any disputes with your landlord that may come up.

When Does My Landlord Have to Pay for Repairs?

When you rent, your landlord must maintain your home in a habitable condition. Generally, that includes anything that breaks due to age, normal wear and tear, or poses a safety issue. Typical issues landlords must fix include major repairs such as the following:

  • Pest infestation
  • Broken locks
  • Plumbing problems
  • Heating problems
  • Electrical problems
  • Mold

When Do I Have to Pay for Repairs?

You are generally responsible for minor repairs and damage you caused. For example, you may be responsible for the following:

  • Damage caused by a pet
  • Damage caused by guests
  • Burnt out lightbulbs
  • Stained countertops

What Can I Do If My Landlord Won't Make a Repair?

If your landlord doesn't repair the issue, you have options.

Each party's rights and responsibilities come from several sources, including:

Each of these sources offers ways to resolve disputes.

Talking to your landlord will often clear up misunderstandings and resolve the issue. But if your landlord ignores you or refuses to fix the problem, you can pursue other remedies. For example, you can contact the local housing authority or file a claim in small claims court.

How you proceed will depend on several factors, including these:

  • The nature and extent of the issue
  • Local laws and regulations
  • Your landlord's attitude

Carefully consider your choice to avoid unnecessary conflict and expense.

What is "Repair and Deduct?"

"Repair and deduct" is a tactic allowed in many states. Under this doctrine, you (as the tenant) hire someone to make the repairs. Then you deduct the cost from the rent.

Suppose, for example, that you have a broken heater in the winter. In that case, you can hire someone to fix the heater and then deduct the repair cost from your rent.

But this option is only sometimes available. For example, minor repairs often don't qualify for repair and deduct. You also must give your landlord adequate notice and time to repair the problem. You should check your local and state law if you intend to use repair and deduct.

Where Can I Get More Information About a Landlord's Responsibility for Repairs?

Disputes between landlords and tenants can be contentious and costly for everyone involved. It's much easier to reach a reasonable resolution to the conflict when you know your rights. You can see FindLaw's Tenant Rights section to learn more. You can also contact a local landlord-tenant attorney. An attorney can answer your questions and give you legal advice to get issues with your rental property fixed.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

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

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