What is a tenant’s financial responsibility regarding repairs performed by their landlord?

I recently had a sewer back-up in my home. I contacted the landlords to notify them of the problem. They came over and snaked my sewer, cleaned it out, and fixed the issue. There were women’s personal items (tampons) that were causing the blockage. A few days later, I received a bill from my landlord. I wasn’t given the option to find an affordable contractor before they did the work. So now I have a bill that isn’t mine because I never gave an OKfor the landlord to do the work, and I was never given the chance to find a cheaper alternative.

Asked on December 30, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Montana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The landlord has no obligation to wait for a tenant's permission to make needed repairs and also has no obligation to let the tenant look for contractors. IF the problem or damage was caused by the tenant or the tenant's family members or  guests--such as by flushing items that should not be flushed, but rather thrown away--then the landlord may charge the tenant for the repair. (If not the tenant's fault, it's on the landlord's dime.) The landlord cannot charge the tenant an unreasonable amount--e.g. $2,000 for what's normally a $300 - $500 repair, or for parts and labor not actually used or done--but the landlord does not have to look for or charge the lowest cost--it's enough that it's a reasonable price.


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