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Rental Property Repairs: Owner vs. Tenant Responsibilities

Olivia Back

If you’re a first-time landlord, you may be unsure of what type of repairs you need to cover for your tenants. Or maybe you are the tenant and you don’t know what repairs the homeowner covers and which ones are your responsibility. The last thing either party wants is to be surprised by an unexpected charge at the end of the month.

Your lease should lay out what the tenant needs to maintain and what repairs the owner has to cover. We’ve written this article to give you a quick idea of what to expect for your rental property.

Tenant Responsibilities

Standard leases typically require their tenants to cover basic maintenance. This includes changing light fixtures, changing HVAC filters, and changing water filters. If there is damage to the HVAC unit due to tenant neglect, the tenant will be responsible for the cost of the repair. If the tenant rekeys the locks, they must cover the cost and provide copies of the new keys to the landlord/management company.

Tenants are also required to keep the premises clean and sanitary. This means properly disposing of garbage and waste. They are also required to operate all electrical, gas, and plumbing fixtures in the way they were intended. If something malfunctions, they should notify the landlord or management company immediately.

Some owners allow tenants to make minor repairs to the home and then deduct the cost from that month’s rent. At Good Life, we don’t recommend this for a couple reasons. First, there is a liability issue with having unqualified tenants do repair work on the home. They could injure themselves or further damage the property. Second, because of their lack of experience, they will likely perform unsatisfactory work. You’ll end up having to do it yourself or hire a contractor anyway.

Owner Responsibilities

Generally, owners are responsible for everything that is not stated in the tenant obligations section of the lease. The owner is responsible for keeping the property in habitable condition. Habitable condition is defined as working plumbing, gas, and electric. It also covers things like pest infestations (we’ll get to that soon).

pexels-photo-1571175Property owners should also keep appliances in working order. Some owners choose to list appliances “as is,” but this is not best practice for appliances that are regularly used. For example, if the washer/dryer or microwave breaks down, it should not fall on the tenant to replace those items. If a tenant chooses to replace it, they will have to figure out where to store the old one. It’s also a customer service issue. Tenants are not usually expected to replace major appliances. It’s likely that they will be highly dissatisfied, which can result in uncooperative tenants.

Additionally, they will probably take the appliance when they move out, leaving you with nothing but the broken appliance you started out with. By replacing the appliance for them, you’ll not only have happy tenants, but you will add value to your home.

Problems with Pests

Responsibility can get muddled when it comes to pests in the home. Certain pests can cause a habitability issue, such as a cockroach infestation, rodents, or poisonous insects or animals. When this occurs, it’s on the owner to send and cover the pest control.

Non-habitability issues usually fall on tenant, such as a few spiders or ants in the home. Tenants are encouraged to try household pesticides before requesting pest control. If that doesn’t work, they can request pest control for the issue. The owner can pay for this if they want to, but be careful not to set the precedent that pest control will be paid for every time the tenant sees an insect. If it's a multifamily property, its best to have routine pest control service so all units are covered.

If pest control is needed because of a defect in the home, such as improper seals or doors that don’t shut properly, this is an owner responsibility. If it turns out that tenants were responsible, i.e. there were pests because the home is very unsanitary, the owner can try to collect funds from the tenants.

Bed bugs are almost always a tenant responsibility because they tend to come in with the tenants or their mattresses. Termites, on the other hand, are usually an owner responsibility because it impacts the structure of the house.


We hope this clarified what falls under owner and tenant responsibilities. Remember to always review your lease when you encounter any issues. 

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