Guide to Appliances in a Rental Property

Master the management of appliances in your rental properties with our comprehensive guide. Learn how to inventory, maintain, and legally handle appliances to enhance tenant satisfaction and safeguard your investment, ensuring a smooth and profitable rental experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Inventory Management: Establish a detailed inventory of appliances to track their condition, repairs, and maintenance history.
  • Legal Considerations: Understand the legal responsibilities regarding appliance provision and maintenance in rental agreements.
  • Regular Maintenance: Prioritize regular maintenance to extend appliance lifespan and prevent costly repairs.
  • Appliance Replacement: Know when to repair versus replace appliances, considering age, cost, and efficiency.
  • Tenant Communication: Communicate with tenants about appliance usage, maintenance responsibilities, and procedures for reporting issues.

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 individual pieces of equipment for use in the home to perform domestic chores. By this definition, a dishwasher, refrigerator, or stove would be regarded as 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. When inquiring about a rental property, discussing appliances is one of applicants’ top concerns. 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 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, putting it above the competition and attracting quality tenants. However, without an 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, developing a start-to-finish approach to your rental property’s appliances will save time, money, and stress. An appliance inventory list is a comprehensive document that tracks each rental property appliance’s purchase, repairs, inspections, and more. Many all-in-one forms are available to keep this task from being time-consuming, and they keep 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 when creating your inventory list. You can also use something like Google Sheets. Take photos of each appliance and include pictures 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 much 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 include a detailed description of appearance and working condition and be signed by both of you, doesn’t need details such as serial numbers. Keep the master inventory document and the tenant’s paperwork for yourself, as well as 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 photographing an appliance, ensure the picture 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. It is a good watch if you’ve never done a proper move-in inspection.

If there is pre-existing damage like scratches or discoloration, get close-ups for your records.

Email these photos to your new renter; 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

An appliance addendum in the lease should clearly outline the maintenance and repair responsibilities and specify which party is responsible for various appliance issues.

If you want to include language in the lease agreement or addendum that assigns the responsibility of appliance repair to the tenant, you can include 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.

It’s best practice for the lease to include an appliance clause that details the responsibilities for repairs, maintenance, and replacement, distinguishing between normal wear and tear and tenant-caused damage.

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

Repair Responsibilities

For example, if a refrigerator needs repair due to tenant damage, the tenant would be responsible for the repair costs. If the fridge 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, they would have no reason to think your lease would be any different unless it was 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 supplies their appliances, you can include an addendum stating that 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 talk 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.

How Should Landlords Manage Appliances in Rental Properties?

Landlords should effectively manage appliances by maintaining a comprehensive inventory list, understanding their legal obligations for appliance maintenance, conducting regular upkeep, deciding judiciously on repairs or replacements, and communicating clearly with tenants about their responsibilities and procedures for appliance issues.

Where Can I Purchase Rental Appliances?

Rental appliances should only be high-end if 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, which 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 a fridge at Home Depot with free delivery.

Are Landlords Required To Fix Appliances?

Appliance repairs are the hottest topic between landlords and tenants after late rent. Because there is so much gray area regarding who is responsible, it opens the door to confusion, miscommunication, and bad feelings. As a landlord, you’ll be much happier if you head off conflict before it 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 want to include an appliance repair addendum outlining the specific responsibilities. If the tenant supplies their appliances, they are entirely responsible for repairs, plus any damage 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 the tenant doesn’t go without for too long. Landlords are typically required to repair or replace essential appliances like ovens within a reasonable timeframe, often between 14 to 30 days, depending on state laws. If you fail to finish the repair in that time, the tenant can conduct it themselves 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 stove is broken because you will likely be thumbing through the online directory just looking for a place you hope will do a good job.

Landlords are generally expected to replace appliances when they are no longer functional or efficient. This timeline can vary, but major appliances often require replacement every 10 to 15 years.

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

Find a company with a good reputation, good references, and affordable rates. Remember to check if the broken appliance is still under warranty, as the repair approach 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. While not legally mandated everywhere, landlords commonly provide stoves and refrigerators in rental units to meet market expectations and habitability standards. 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, the landlord can charge 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.