Guide to Appliances in a Rental Property

With every rental property, landlords must consider maintaining each part of the unit, from the walls and windows to the electrical and plumbing systems. One significant area that landlords deal with is the rental unit’s appliances. Because there is no single approach to appliances—from providing them in the first place to keeping an inventory or repair list on them—many landlords struggle with the ins and outs of appliances in a rental property. This appliance guide for landlords can help streamline your efforts in approaching and dealing with appliances, from start to finish.

A table of contents for rental appliances:

What Are Appliances?

Appliances are generally considered to be individual pieces of equipment for use in the home to perform domestic chores. By this definition, a dishwasher, refrigerator, or stove would be considered an appliance. However, a water heater, garbage disposal, or toilet would not.

Common Appliances In Rental

Whether the tenant buys the appliances or the landlord, there are usually standard appliances in the rental for everyday use. In most rentals, here are the appliances you will typically see:

  • Refrigerator
  • Stove/oven
  • Dishwasher
  • Clothes washer
  • Clothes dryer
  • Microwave

It’s not uncommon for landlords to list the appliances that come with the rental unit and what is not. A discussion about appliances is one of the top things applicants want to know about when inquiring about a rental property. Landlords who provide appliances can often charge a higher rent than they would if the property had no appliances.

How To Create Appliance Inventory Lists

When managing and monitoring a rental property’s appliances, you should take a particular approach to ensure that they are inventoried and well-maintained. Some landlords don’t find a need to document anything about the appliances and have a “wait until it’s broken” attitude.

Appliances can be excellent amenities for your rental property that can put it above the competition in attracting quality tenants. However, without some organized approach to tracking purchase, maintenance and condition, managing the appliances within your rental properties can create too much stress and work for you. To protect you, your tenant and your wallet, develop an appliance inventory system that works for you.

Benefits Of An Inventory List

Still, you will save time, money and stress if you develop a start-to-finish approach to your rental property’s appliances. An appliance inventory list is a comprehensive document that tracks the purchase, repairs, inspections and more for each appliance in a rental property. There are many all-in-one forms available to keep this task from being time-consuming and it keeps all the relevant information in one convenient place. You can go online to find one or create your own.

Apps To Keep Track Of Rental Appliance Inventory

A simple app such as Evernote or Google Keep can be handy in creating your inventory list. You can also use something like Google Sheets. Take photos of each appliance and include photos of the manufacturer’s sticker for model information. This will make troubleshooting repairs easier. You can easily tag photos into organized folders by property.

How To Categorize Your Inventory

Remember that the more rental properties you have, the more appliance inventory forms you need to keep you from getting confused and stressed about what’s happening. An appliance inventory list generally has the following categories:

  • Property name/address/unit number
  • List of appliances
  • Dates of purchase
  • Any warranty information
  • Each appliance’s model number and serial number
  • Detailed description of each appliance
  • Repairs list
  • Inspection/maintenance list
  • Misc. notes about appliances
  • Photos of appliances (optional)

As part of your ongoing management duties, having a document for the appliances in each rental property can save you a lot of trouble down the road. Remember, this inventory form is in addition to the move-in inventory and current condition form for appliances that get filled out as part of your walk-through inspection with your new tenant. That form, which should also include a detailed description of appearance and working condition and be signed by both of you, doesn’t need all the other info about serial numbers and so forth. Keep the master inventory document and the tenant’s paperwork for yourself and the walk-through form.

Taking Photos Of Inventory

It’s important to point out that combining written documents and photos is the best way to keep track of appliances for many reasons. When you take a photo of an appliance, ensure it is time-stamped with the move-in or inspection date. Those photos, combined with a signed checklist by you and your tenant are tough to dispute in court if the tenant damages, breaks, or steals them. The video below opens up in our RentPrep office and we then go on location with local property manager Andrew Schultz. This is a good watch if you’ve never done a proper move-in inspection.

If there is pre-existing damage like scratches or discoloration, make sure to get close-ups for your records.
Email these photos to your new renter and having them confirm receipt is also a good idea. Again, this helps prove your case in the courts if there was damage to the appliances.

Appliance Repair Lease Addendum

If you want to include language in the lease agreement or addendum that puts the responsibility of appliance repair onto the tenant, you can put in a clause that states that you have provided the appliances for the tenant’s use, but they are not part of the rent. In other words, once the tenant takes occupancy, the use and any repairs resulting from that use, become theirs.
Some landlords take a middle ground and differentiate between damage or breaking vs. normal wear and tear.

If you need a starter lease agreement, be sure to download our landlord bundle.

Repair Responsibilities

For example, if a refrigerator needs repair due to tenant damage, he or she would be responsible for the repair. If the refrigerator stops working due to age or normal wear and tear, the landlord handles it. Also, many landlords include language that puts a responsibility on the tenant if they fail to report a problem with the appliance, like a leaky dishwasher. The delay causes more damage to the appliance or surrounding area.

If the tenant does contract out for repairs, ensure your agreement states that you get a copy of the invoice for your records. Never assume that tenants understand your approach to appliance repairs without discussing it, simply because every landlord will handle it differently. If your tenant has come from a rental where the landlord did fix appliances whenever they broke, he or she would have no reason to think your lease would be any different unless it were pointed out to them. Likewise, many landlords automatically assume that if they provide an appliance, they must repair it whenever and however it breaks, no matter what.

If the tenant is supplying their appliances, you can have an addendum that states the tenant is responsible for any damage to the unit caused by that appliance. In summary, make sure you are clear with your expectations in writing and take the time to have a conversation with the tenant about everyone’s repair responsibilities. As with everything, communication is critical to avoiding conflict.

Landlord Appliance FAQs

If you’re thinking about getting appliances for your rental property or even want to help out your tenant if they want to purchase appliances, here are a few pointers and frequently asked questions about rental appliances.

Where Can I Purchase Rental Appliances?

Rental appliances should not be high-end unless you have a high-end rental. Spending too much is a quick way to reduce your cash flow on a property. We had this question in our Facebook Group and it started an excellent thread on how to save on appliances. Here are some of our favorite answers.

  • Sears scratch and dent models along with Sears outlets
  • Best buy open box section
  • Stores with contractor pricing (here’s an example in the Phoenix market)
  • Find a price match and take it to Lowe’s to beat it
  • “Purchase a $500 Home Depot gift card at Giant Eagle, get free gas, and purchase fridge at Home Depot with free delivery.

Are Landlords Required To Fix Appliances?

Appliance repairs are probably the hottest topic between landlords and tenants after late rent. Because there is so much gray on who is responsible, it opens the door to confusion, miscommunication and bad feelings. As a landlord, you’ll be much happier if you can head off conflict before it even starts with clear communication and a solid lease agreement. The bottom line is that there are no across-the-board laws regarding who is responsible for repairing a broken appliance.

In other words, whatever a landlord includes about appliance repair responsibilities in the lease agreement will generally hold up in court. If the lease agreement says that the tenant is responsible for appliance repair starting from the first day of occupancy, then the court will uphold that.

If the lease agreement states that the landlord is responsible, that will also be upheld. No matter which way the lease agreement handles repairs, it is critical that you and the applicant discuss responsibility before the lease is signed. You may even want to include an appliance repair addendum that outlines the specifics of responsibility. It goes without saying that if the tenant is supplying their appliances, they are entirely responsible for repairs, plus any damage that their appliance might cause to the unit, like water damage from a leaking washer.

How long does a landlord have to fix appliances?

If an appliance breaks down and you are responsible for repairs, the law ensures that the tenant doesn’t go without for too long. Most states give a deadline of a reasonable amount of time—usually anywhere from 14 to 30 days—to arrange for a repair. If you fail to get the repair done in that time, the tenant has the right to repair and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent. For example, if the dishwasher broke and the tenant notified you, you can hire a service person and/or replace the appliance.

If the problem is not solved within that time, the tenant can arrange a repair and deduct that from the rent, along with a copy of the invoice as proof of the expense. It’s always a good idea to develop a list of services and contact people you trust and can rely on to provide affordable, effective repairs on all your appliances. Don’t wait until that refrigerator or that stove is broken, because you will most likely be thumbing through the online directory just looking for a place you hope will do a good job.

Many RentPrep clients have shared that they find contractors by going to their local Home Depots and Lowe’s tool rental. The person there deals with contractors daily and can provide insights that online directories cannot.

Research ahead and find a company with a good reputation, good references and affordable rates. Don’t forget to check if that broken appliance is still under warranty, because the approach to repairs will differ slightly.

Who Is Responsible For Appliances In Rental Property?

No law requires landlords to provide appliances in a rental unit, and most states don’t consider an absence of appliances to violate the habitability requirements that landlords must meet. In other words, a rental property must have working electrical, heat and plumbing systems, but there don’t necessarily have to be any appliances hooked up to those systems. It’s rare for a rental property nowadays not to provide any appliances. Appliances are highly desirable for renters who most likely don’t own appliances. Many landlords specifically mention provided appliances when marketing their rental units to stay competitive.

Streamline Your Rental Appliance Efforts

Hopefully, you have a good start on where to begin purchasing, installing and managing appliances in a rental property. Appliances, when handled properly, can help add overall value to your tenant’s stay by providing essentials for everyday living. Plus, it helps the landlord in some ways like possibly charging a bit more for rent because appliances are provided. Check out this article for more information on whether or not the tenant or the landlord should be purchasing the appliances.