Tenants or landlords: Who pays for rental repairs?

Last updated: January 1

Repairs needed in a common areas, as well as damage that could threaten your safety, are your landlord's responsibility. But you're responsible for other items in your rental property. Here's how to figure out the difference.

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What's the tenant responsible for?

Renters insurance was specifically designed to help repair or replace your belongings if they're stolen or damaged in a covered incident. It could also help cover additional living expenses if you're ever forced out of your apartment by a covered loss.

According to Trulia, as a tenant, your lease may specify you are also responsible for a number of problems or repairs inside the unit, including:

  • Flea extermination (if caused by your pet).
  • Damage you cause to floors, walls and ceilings.
  • Appliances you've broken due to misuse.
  • Drains you've clogged due to misuse.
  • A furnace that's broken due to misuse or lack of maintenance.
  • Water damage you cause (like a flooded bathroom).

It's important to note that tenant laws vary by state. Refer to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for a complete breakdown by state.

What's the landlord responsible for?

The Insurance Information Institute (III) states that landlord insurance can help pay for damage from a covered peril, meaning the structure itself is the landlord's responsibility. Covered perils include things like fire, lightning and wind. Landlord insurance might also cover items kept at the unit for maintenance purposes — lawnmowers, snow blowers and the like.

According to Trulia, landlords are also responsible for ensuring that units are safe and habitable. That means ensuring that all wiring meets building code requirements, that window and door locks work, and that there aren't pest infestations or other issues that could threaten health and safety.

Wear and tear vs. accidental damage

Normal wear and tear can be difficult to define and laws may vary by state. But Zillow identifies a few things that could be considered damage beyond normal wear and tear:

  • Stains or damage from pets (including in the yard).
  • Damaged walls (beyond small scuffs or nail holes).
  • Broken tiles or hardware.

Zillow reiterates that regulations can differ from state to state and recommends doing a little research on landlord-tenant laws in your area.

Check your lease agreement for specific repair guidelines

When it comes to paying for damages, it depends on the lease you have with your landlord. It also depends on the type of damage and how it was caused. You'll likely be responsible for damage you cause (leaving a faucet on and flooding the bathroom, for example), while your landlord's insurance could help cover damage to the structure itself from a covered peril.

Trulia explains that landlords are also responsible for major repairs that have to do with your "safety and basic comfort".

Read your rental agreement carefully before signing.

State laws for renters

It's a good idea to understand your tenant rights in case you're ever treated unfairly or need to know the protocol for requesting a repair from your landlord.

To learn more about specific renters' rights in your state, visit the HUD website.

Added protection with renters insurance

Know your tenant rights is a good first step toward staying protected. A good renters insurance policy can also help protect you (and your finances) should something go wrong — and is typically very affordable.