The Tenant’s Responsibility for Rental Property Maintenance

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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 16, 2021

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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.

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