The Tenant’s Responsibility for Rental Property Maintenance

UPDATED: Jul 17, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 17, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 17, 2023Fact Checked

Often, a lease will contain a provision stating that a tenant shall not “commit waste” with respect to the rental property, but what is a tenant’s responsibility with respect to maintenance of the property? The tenant has the responsibility to keep the rental property clean, to properly dispose of trash, and shall not deliberately or negligently allow damage to the property. Further, most leases require the tenant to return the rental property to the landlord in a clean and habitable condition, except for “reasonable wear and tear,” at the end of the lease term.

Most state laws define this requirement as stating that the property must be kept to a habitable condition. In other words, should your landlord do a surprise inspection of the property, they should not find large amounts of filth in or around the home. Some examples of filth would include animal feces left uncleaned in the home or in the backyard, or leaving dead animals on the property without properly disposing of them. In addition, most landlords expect you, as the tenant, to inform them of any obvious infestations such as termites, roaches, mice, bats, or birds. This is a requirement because these animals can do permanent damage to a property. Notice to the landlord can be as simple as calling to inform them of the problem.

Most have heard rare cases of mentally unstable individuals hoarding items or otherwise filling their rental property with garbage. In one case, a report talked about a woman having one room full of old boxes, another filled with cans, and another with paper. To avoid creating a nightmare for the landlord, it is your responsibility to properly dispose of any trash on the premises. This does not mean that you have to keep the property free of every piece of litter that blows onto the lawn, but that you should avoid leaving trash laying around that could contribute to pest infestations.

The general rule is, if you broke it as the tenant, it is your responsibility to pay for the repairs. Some examples of common damage that tenants are responsible for any broken windows, holes in the wall, and damage to the carpet. As the tenant, you are not responsible for fixing problems such as a leaky roof or a cracked foundation, but you are obligated to inform the landlord so that they can make the necessary repairs and prevent further damage.

Case Studies: Tenant’s Responsibility for Rental Property Maintenance

Case Study 1: Failure to Maintain Cleanliness

John is a tenant renting a house in a suburban neighborhood. Over time, he neglects his responsibility to keep the rental property clean. Trash accumulates both inside and outside the house, attracting pests and causing unpleasant odors.

The landlord conducts an inspection and discovers the unsanitary conditions. As a result, the landlord gives John a warning and requests that he promptly clean up the property. If John fails to comply, the landlord may initiate eviction proceedings.

Case Study 2: Ignoring Property Damage

Sarah rents an apartment in a high-rise building. One day, she accidentally damages the wall while moving furniture. Instead of reporting the damage to the landlord, she decides to leave it unrepaired. Over time, the damage worsens, leading to a noticeable crack in the wall.

During a routine inspection, the landlord discovers the damage and holds Sarah responsible for the repairs. Sarah is required to cover the cost of fixing the wall and is reminded of her obligation to report any damages promptly.

Case Study 3: Infestation Negligence

Mark is a tenant living in a house with a backyard. One summer, he notices signs of a termite infestation around the wooden deck. Instead of informing the landlord immediately, Mark ignores the issue, assuming it will resolve itself. As time passes, the termites cause extensive damage to the deck, compromising its structural integrity.

The landlord conducts an inspection and discovers the severe termite infestation. Mark is held responsible for the repairs and is reminded of his duty to report any infestations promptly.

Case Study 4: Failure to Report Plumbing Issues

Emily rents an older apartment with outdated plumbing. She notices a minor leak under the kitchen sink but decides not to inform the landlord, assuming it’s not a significant issue. Over time, the leak worsens, resulting in water damage to the cabinet and adjacent walls.

During a routine inspection, the landlord discovers the extensive water damage and holds Emily responsible for the repairs. Emily is reminded that reporting maintenance issues promptly is crucial to prevent further damage.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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