Owner vs Tenant Repair Responsibilities
If you have recently become a landlord, or if you just aren’t sure what kinds of maintenance you are responsible for, as opposed to those which your tenant needs to cover, the thumbnail sketch below may be of value to you. You certainly don’t want to be surprised someday and find out that a significant maintenance expense is your responsibility, and that you’ll have to pay for it instead of your tenant.
As a general rule, you will be responsible as landlord for maintaining everything which is not specifically outlined in the tenant obligations part of the lease which has been agreed to. As landlord, you are responsible for maintaining the property in a condition which is considered habitable. This will include everything necessary for basic living such as gas, plumbing, and electricity.
In most cases, you will also be responsible for maintaining all the major appliances which came with a specific unit, for instance the stove, furnace, refrigerator, and air conditioning. If there is a washer/dryer in your unit, you would also be responsible for maintaining that in a good working condition. Tenants cannot be expected to pay for major appliances, and even if they did, they would want to take it with them when they left, and that would leave you with no appliance for the next tenant.
You’ll also be responsible for ensuring that there are no infestations of critters or pests in the dwelling. Whenever an infestation raises the question of habitability, it falls on the owner to handle the removal of those critters. When it’s less serious, like having a few spiders or a bunch of ants in the springtime, that would probably be the responsibility of the tenant to manage, especially since a few inexpensive ant traps would probably solve the problem nicely.
If you own a multi-family dwelling, it becomes even more important that pest control is handled properly, because you could then get multiple complaints from tenants who are bothered by pests. Sometimes it just becomes an issue of what particular kind of pest is involved. For instance, bed bugs would probably be a tenant responsibility because tenants may have brought them in with their mattresses, etc. On the other hand, termites are more likely to be a landlord responsibility, because these will usually come from the surrounding area, like a yard or nearby wood pile.
Most leases will require tenants to bear the cost of basic maintenance. This kind of maintenance will include such things as changing HVAC filters and water filters, as well as light bulbs and fixtures. Tenants are also charged with keeping rental units sanitary and clean, which means regularly disposing of all waste and garbage. If anything malfunctions in the way of gas, electrical, or plumbing fixtures, this will need to be reported to management at the earliest opportunity, so it can be repaired.
Some landlords permit tenants to make minor repairs, and then have the cost of those repairs deducted from the monthly rent. This is normally not a good practice to get into for liability reasons, and you never know just how qualified any given tenant might be as a do-it-yourselfer. In order to be sure that the job gets done right, you’re much better off leaving it to the professionals, so that nothing gets damaged, and so the job gets done right the first time.