Tenant's Maintenance Responsibilities: What to Know

By Kaitlin Hurtado on April 25, 2022

As a property manager, you are responsible for a variety of things to keep your property up and running as expected. However, it is not your sole responsibility to make sure that a rental property is maintained properly. By signing a lease agreement, a tenant is claiming some share of responsibility in maintaining their unit and what else they may have shared access to on the rest of the property (laundry rooms, gyms, parking garage, etc.). Tenants’ maintenance responsibilities will vary for every situation, but it’s definitely something you should be mindful of as a property manager. Of course, as a property manager, you are expected to ensure the property is maintained regardless of how your tenant is behaving, but some maintenance issues should be taken care of solely by the tenant.

There are many factors to consider in deciding whether a maintenance issue is a tenant’s responsibility or your responsibility – at the end of it all, you want to make sure that the issue is taken care of regardless. Keep reading for how you can navigate the shared responsibility of maintaining the rental property between you and your tenants.

Photo: Pexels

Know your responsibility as a property manager

As a property manager, you are going to be responsible for maintenance issues that are often considered more severe than the typical broken window blind or squeaky hinge. These types of issues may include, but are not limited to:

- Issues that cause your property to not meet local codes/laws. If a tenant brings an issue up to you that shows that the property is not up to code, make sure that repairs are completed immediately.

- Pest infestation. As soon as your tenant brings a pest issue to your attention, take immediate action. One tenant’s issue with pests can signal a larger infestation on your property, which will take even more time and money to resolve.

- Visible mold in the rental property. If your tenant identifies visible mold in the rental unit, and it’s caused by water damage or an ignored leak, you are responsible for all associated repairs. If the mold was caused by the tenant’s neglect, they may be responsible for the repairs.

- Ensuring your rental property is fit for human occupation. When any issues arise that make your property uninhabitable, it’s your responsibility to take immediate action. This can include broken water heaters, broken doors/locks, broken windows, and so on.

For these types of repairs, you are likely going to be responsible for covering the costs of repairs, and if tenants are making repairs for damages they directly caused, they will likely be responsible for covering the costs.

Make sure your tenant is aware of their responsibility

Just as a tenant expects their property manager to do their part in maintaining the rental property, you should expect them to do their part in maintaining the property as well. You should have some details regarding tenant responsibilities in the lease agreement they signed prior to move-in, but you should expect them to actively take care of the following concerns themselves:

- Proper trash/waste disposal: Your tenant is responsible for ensuring that their personal trash is disposed of properly. Leaving bags of trash outside their front door as opposed to the designated trash bins around the property can lead to unwanted pests and a general downgrade of your property.

- Tenant-made damage: The typical wear-and-tear is to be expected when it comes to rental properties, but atypical damage should be something that the tenant is responsible for preventing and repairing. If you do expect your tenant to complete repairs themselves, make sure you are following up or inspecting the repairs to make sure they were completed correctly.

Establish clear and open communication 

While you may be doing your due diligence in repairing issues as you are made aware of them, every tenant has the responsibility of reporting a maintenance issue as they see it. For example, they may notice a leaking pipe in their bathroom but wait weeks to report it to you or your maintenance team. In that window of a couple of weeks, the leak could have resulted in a mold issue that was easily preventable had they reported the issue when it began.

Make sure that both you and your tenant are on the same page when it comes to reporting maintenance issues and repairs. Have a specific email or phone number dedicated to receiving maintenance requests, or have it be an option in your resident portal that they use to make their rent payments. There’s no point in a tenant reporting an issue in a timely manner if the request is going to be left ignored for an unreasonable amount of time.

Both you and your tenants share a responsibility for ensuring that the rental property is maintained. By maintaining clear communication, you can both do your part in maintaining your property.

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