Apartment Repairs: Who Is Responsible?

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Apartment Repairs: Who Is Responsible?

Staff Writer · Jul 21, 2010

Apartment repairs are often the reason why tenants move out, or get evicted. A related problem is when the landlord uses repairs as an excuse to gain entry into the apartment, more than what’s necessary or reasonable. The cost of repairs, the extent of them, and the ability to gain entry to make repairs are all causes of many landlord and tenant conflicts. You can avoid many fights with your landlord once you understand who is responsible for what.

Minimum Apartment Repairs Required by State Laws

When your landlord signs the lease agreement, he is agreeing to provide you with an apartment that’s safe to live in. He’s also promising to make the repairs necessary to keep the apartment sanitary and decent for you to live there. You may not find that language anywhere in the lease agreement, but it’s implied by most state laws. As long as you rent the apartment, the landlord is obligated to keep the apartment in a habitable condition, in compliance with local housing codes. Some repairs that fall under this category include:

-Major plumbing problems
-A leaky roof
-Broken steps

It’s your landlord’s responsibility to make any repairs that will impede your ability to live in a sanitary, safe and decent apartment. Your landlord has to pay for the repairs, unless you caused the damage.

Minor Apartment Repairs

All of the other repairs that don’t fall under minimum repairs required by state laws to keep the apartment habitable are considered minor repairs. You or your landlord is responsible for paying for and making those repairs, depending on the nature of the problem. The lease agreement should spell out who is responsible for what. Make sure that you negotiate clauses related to repairs before signing the lease to prevent future problems. If it’s not stated in the lease, then local building codes and housing ordinances will state who is responsible. In general, your landlord is not required to repair cosmetic issues, and you are responsible for repairs if you were the cause of the damage. Some examples of minor repairs and the person likely to be responsible include:

-Old carpets – You
-Dripping faucet – Landlord
-Some tears in the floor in the laundry area – You
-Broken storm door – Landlord

If the landlord makes repairs that you’re responsible for, upon your request, then he can charge you reasonable expenses for it. Your landlord cannot charge you excessive and unreasonable fees, even if that’s what he actually paid.

Don’t approach your landlord with the wrong attitude about apartment repairs, no matter how upsetting the situation is. Keep your calm, and only make a verbal request if it’s your first one. After that, make your request in writing, and remind him in that letter of your previous request. Some landlords are not responsive, and you may have to use written document to defend yourself in an eviction proceeding, or in small claims court to get money back for damages.

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