Tips for Landlords: Property Maintenance 101

As a landlord or property manager, you have various specific and general landlord responsibilities when it comes to all aspects of your rental properties. Everything, of course, hinges on what has been agreed to in any rental agreement or lease; those written contracts supersede what has been traditionally taken care of by landlords and renters.

When it comes to property maintenance, there are dozens upon dozens of things to consider. From light bulbs to exterior painting and everything in between, the level of responsibilities shared by tenants and you is negotiable.

Small Maintenance Items

Here’s a list of commonly asked questions for minor issues when it comes to rental property maintenance.

You’ll notice the answer is the same for each situation…

Are landlords responsible for light bulbs?

The responsibility of light bulbs should be spelled out in the lease. If it is not the typical approach is that the renter is responsible for replacing light bulbs inside of the apartment and the landlord is responsible for light bulbs in common areas.

Furnace filter tenant or landlord?

Small Maintenance Items

Responsibility for relacing the filter on your furnace or AC unit should be spelled out in the lease. If it is not spelled out in the lease it is recommended that the landlord replace these filters for two reasons.

The first is that a tenant could make an argument that the filter affects air quality and that the landlord is required to provide a warranty of habitability in the rental.

The second reason is that the furnace will work harder if the filter is far beyond it’s working life. The harder your furnace works the quicker you’ll have to perform costly maintenance.

Meanwhile, if the apartment becomes inhospitable (too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter), your tenant can conceivably hold out on his rent.

Now, he may be found to have overstepped his bounds, but why hassle with something that could have been prevented in 5 minutes for less than $10? Of course, it’s really not worth the headache and heartburn.

Is the landlord responsible for refrigerator water filter?

If water filter replacement is not spelled out in the lease the landlord should replace it.

When the lease is up it would be a good idea to add a mention to future leases that spell out who is responsible for the water filter and how often it should be replaced.

Big-Ticket Maintenance

Big-Ticket Maintenance

Items that come installed in the unit, like stoves and ovens, automatic dishwashers, and—in many cases—refrigerators, are undoubtedly the landlord’s responsibility.

Any plumbing, electrical work, and interior painting are also the landlord’s responsibility. Of course, if the tenant has been abusive toward the property, he can and should be held responsible from a monetary standpoint.

Such expenses incurred due to tenant neglect or willful misconduct ought to be reserved against any security deposits taken.

For more information on how to examine the interior of a rental, check out this video:

The gray area is always within the domicile. Curtains, blinds, and shutters may or may not be the tenant’s responsibility. The same goes for carpets and interior painting. Permanent light fixtures are the landlord’s responsibility, whereas lamps and other “portable” fixtures are the tenant’s.

It is much clearer that you are responsible for any and all property maintenance outside and on the exterior of the building, in terms of building exterior, the roof, windows (unless broken by the tenants), landscaping, parking lots, and fences.

However, you have every right to establish a fund that takes money into an escrow account in order to save for necessary repairs and maintenance.

Landscaping expenses also fall into this category. Each month, part of a tenant’s rent should be placed into one of these property maintenance accounts and funds should be allocated each month for normal maintenance and some money should be allocated to future property maintenance expenditures.

How to assess wear and tear issues

On our podcast, we had Don Krupens of on the show to discuss how to assess wear and tear in a rental property such as torn carpets, scuff marks, and various damages in the rental property.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Property maintenance, however, is really ultimately your responsibility. It is your property (or at least it’s the property for which you are an agent) and it behooves you to care for it in as proactive a way as possible.

If you let things get out of hand, your costs rise disproportionately.
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