Dealing with Landlord – Tenant Problems

I recently moved into an apartment that was in less than stellar shape. While my apartment building is one of the older ones in the area and I expected a little wear and tear, I was in for quite a shock when I moved in.

In addition the huge mess the previous tenants had left, there were bugs crawling around, cabinet doors that were falling off the hinges and a crack in my floor that had created a mini-crater in the entryway of my room. Fortunately, my landlord is extremely easy to work with and took care of the problems immediately.

However, my recent experience made me realize how important it is for renters to understand when to call their landlord and what types of maintenance renters are responsible for. Here are some common landlord tenant problems that may occur in your apartment and who is responsible for them.

  • Water leaks – While you can wait until normal business hours to call your landlord about most problems, you should call your landlord immediately when you discover a major water leak (even if it’s in the middle of the night). In certain instances it may be your legal responsibility to make sure problems don’t escalate. Calling your landlord immediately will help ensure that you are not held responsible for any damages.
  • Broken smoke detectors – In most states, landlords are required to provide working smoke detectors. But before you call your landlord, make sure that the issue isn’t a dead battery or something minor that you can easily fix.
  • Plumbing problems – While your landlord is responsible for ensuring the proper plumbing of your apartment, things such as a clogged sink or toilet due to user error are your responsibility.
  • Heating and cooling— Many states have laws requiring a minimum temperature during the winter so if you’ve noticed that your apartment’s heating is not working on excessively cold days; you should call your landlord.
  • Structurally unsound floors, stairways and roofs — In most states, your landlord is responsible for ensuring that your apartment is structurally sound. This means that if your roof or floor has cracks in it or is rotting or if the staircase in or leading up to your apartment is wobbly, call your landlord immediately.
  • Extermination — If there are rodents or bugs in your apartment, your landlord may be responsible for providing proper extermination service. However, if your living habits happen to be the cause of the problem (i.e. lack of housekeeping/cleaning properly), you may be responsible for the whole or part of the cost of the exterminator.
To protect yourself both financially and legally, if you discover any damages to your apartment when you move in, you should always take a picture and document everything and send them to your landlord immediately upon moving in.

When the responsibility gets murky

Unfortunately, in the case of minor repairs such as torn carpeting, rusty door knobs or just pains (things that don’t threaten your safety), it is not always the responsibility of your landlord to take care of these problems. Before these problems occur, consider talking to your landlord about who should pay for these repairs and check your contract as well as local and state building codes and landlord-tenant laws.
KathyD is a guest blogger. In exchange for sharing this content, has compensated her via cash payment.