4 Types of Maintenance Requests You Don't Need to Complete

By Alicia Geigel on January 24, 2024

Landlords by nature have many different duties and responsibilities that they need to fulfill, which includes addressing maintenance requests from tenants. Tenants are likely to send maintenance requests on occasion, and whether these requests need to be handled by the landlord typically depends on what the issue is.

If you’re a landlord who is unsure about the maintenance requests you need to complete, here’s a guide to help you understand your responsibilities.

lightbulb, lightbulb change, hand, light, window

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What are the Responsibilities of a Landlord?

First and foremost, landlords are legally responsible for providing their tenants with a safe and inhabitable place to live. The words “safe and inhabitable” can have different meanings depending on the person asked, but in the world of rental properties, all landlords must provide tenants with a property that is up to the local safety code. It also must be sanitary, structurally sound, and “free of water or gas leakage, mold, and any other hazardous materials,” according to Daniel Bortz of Realtor.com

What is a Maintenance Request?

A maintenance request is a formal communication between a tenant and a landlord that involves a request from the tenant to repair or fix an issue in the rental property. Maintenance requests typically involve plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, and appliance issues, but can involve others on a case-by-case basis.

Maintenance Requests You Don’t Need to Complete

1. Clogged Toilet or Tub Drains: Clogged drains are a normal occurrence and can happen to just about anyone. Whether it’s hair in the shower drain or leftover food waste clogging up the kitchen sink, clogged drains can cause drainage problems or even leaks if it is not addressed promptly. Many clog issues, such as a clogged toilet or shower drain, do not need to be completed by a landlord. These types of clogs are minor and can typically be fixed by the tenant using either a plunger or some type of chemical drainage cleaner. If a clogged drain leads to a more major plumbing issue, that’s when it would be necessary for a landlord to intervene.

2. Light Bulb Changes: Most lightbulbs, with the exception of LED bulbs, have a reasonable lifespan of 1,000 hours. Depending on how often the tenant uses lamps and various other lighting, the lightbulbs can burn out in a short time. Lightbulbs do not have to be changed out by landlords and can be replaced by the tenants themselves based on their budget, preferred wattage, and even color.

3. Replacing Batteries in Various Detectors: All rental properties are required to have a smoke detector installed, and in many states, carbon monoxide detectors are also required. A smoke detector sounds a loud alarm when smoke is present, which can alert tenants of a fire, while a carbon monoxide detector alerts tenants that there is a carbon monoxide gas leak in the home. Both detectors are powered by batteries, and when the batteries die, the tenants are usually responsible for replacing them. Landlords are responsible for ensuring that the detectors are in perfect, working condition.

4. Appliances Purchased By the Tenants: In many rental units and properties, landlords provide tenants with appliances like stoves and ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. In other cases, tenants bring their own appliances. When tenants have their own appliances, the landlord is not responsible for fixing or repairing any issues with those appliances. The tenant, rather, is responsible for repairing the appliance themselves or hiring a professional to fix it.

Maintenance Requests You Need to Complete

1. Electrical Problems: Landlords are required to handle maintenance requests that involve common electrical problems, like “dead outlets, faulty light fixtures or nonworking light switches,” according to Stephen Michael White of Rentprep.com. In addition to these common problems, landlords are also required to address and repair serious ones like, “sparks at the electrical outlet, heat around the outlets or switches, flickering lights, circuit breaker trips and frequent light bulbs burnout.”

2. Heating and Air Conditioning: Landlords are required to provide their tenants with a warm living space during the winter and a cool and comfortable living space in the summer months. Doing so means that the heating and cooling mechanisms, whether it be air conditioner units or an entire HVAC system, must be in perfect working order, and function like they should.

3. Major Plumbing Issues: Outside of minor issues like a clogged toilet or clogged drain, landlords must respond to maintenance requests from tenants concerning major plumbing issues, like major pipe leaks, water heater malfunctions, sewer backup, zero water supply, and more.

4. Pest Removal: If a tenant has recurring problems with pests like rodents, ants, cockroaches, flies, and more, the landlord is required to address those problems and hire a professional, like an exterminator, to rid the property of the pests.

5. Visible Mold: Mold is a serious issue that can cause health problems involving respiratory issues like asthma, sinusitis, and more. Landlords are required to remove any instance of mold in a property and address the cause of the mold growth, which can range from ventilation issues to water leaks.

Determining your full responsibilities can sometimes be difficult and murky as a landlord. When it comes to maintenance requests, it’s important to be knowledgeable of your local safety codes and general laws to know exactly what your responsibilities are and be the best landlord you can be.

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