Featured News 2015 Tenant Responsibility for Housing Repairs

Tenant Responsibility for Housing Repairs

While maintenance of a rental property is usually the property owner's responsibility, there are circumstances when it can be the tenant's responsibility.

Even when a tenant signs a lease stating that he or she is responsible for all maintenance costs, a property owner cannot hold a tenant responsible for all of the repairs. This principle evolved from the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA), which says that a landlord must provide "habitability" for his or her tenants.

Many judges have ruled against landlords who tried to use such written agreements to escape responsibility. This does not mean that a tenant cannot be held responsible for any damage that they have caused. However, a property owner must be able to show that the tenant was the one that caused the damage.

Here's an example: Mrs. Jones called the landlord frantically because the toilet was flooding the bathroom. The landlord promptly sent a plumber out to remedy the situation; however, it was discovered that Mrs. Jones' toddler had flushed a toy car down the toilet, thereby causing the toilet to clog and overflow.

The landlord acted correctly in calling a plumber out, but he billed Mrs. Jones for the plumbing repair, which she paid, reimbursing the landlord for the repairs.

When is a tenant responsible for repairs?

Generally, tenants have to pay for repairs out of pocket when they are directly responsible for the damage. It can also be a tenant responsibility if they fail report a problem, and it leads to damage. For example, a continuous leaking under the kitchen sink, which eventually causes dry rot – a tenant can be held responsible for not reporting it.

Landlords should clearly explain what their responsibility is and what is not, and require that tenants report any maintenance issues. If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue over who's responsible for paying the repairs, reach out to an experienced real estate attorney!

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