An appliance guide for landlords and rental properties

With every rental property, landlords must think about 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 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.
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 Exactly Are Appliances?

Appliances are generally considered to be an individual piece of equipment for use in the home in the performance of domestic chores.
By this definition, a dishwasher, refrigerator or stove would be considered appliances, but a water heater, garbage disposal or a toilet would not.
In most rentals, the landlord often provides some or all of the following appliances:

  • 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.
In fact, 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 came with no appliances.

Must Landlords Provide Appliances?

There is no law requiring 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 doesn’t necessarily have to be any appliances hooked up to those systems.
It’s rare for a rental property nowadays to not provide any appliances.
Appliances are highly desirable for renters who most likely don’t own appliances of their own.
In order to stay competitive with the competition, many landlords specifically mention provided appliances when marketing their rental units.

Appliances can create additional revenue streams

The coin operated washer and dryers below can create an additional revenue stream in your rental properties.
Click any of the images to see the Amazon reviews.

Appliance Inventory Lists

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

Pro Tip: A simple app such as Evernote or Google Keep can be handy in creating your inventory list. Simply take photos of each appliance and be sure to include photos of the manufacturers sticker for model information. This will make troubleshooting repairs easier. You can easily tag photos into organized folders by property.

Remember the more rental properties you have, the more appliance inventory forms you need to keep you from getting confused and stressed about what’s going on. 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 gets 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 for yourself, and the walk-through form with the tenant’s paperwork.
It’s important to point out that a combination of written documents and photos are the best way to keep track of appliances for many reasons. Whenever you take a photo of an appliance, make sure it is time stamped with the move-in or inspection date.
Those photos, combined with a signed checklist by you and your tenant are extremely hard 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.
It’s also a good idea to email these photos to your new renter and have them confirm receipt. Again, this is helpful in proving your case in the courts if there was damage to the appliances.
Speaking of damages…

Are landlords required to fix appliances?

Probably the hottest topic between landlords and tenants after late rent is appliance repairs.
Because there is so much gray area on who is responsible, it opens the door to a lot of confusion, miscommunication and bad feelings.
As a landlord, you’ll be much happier if you can head off conflict before it even starts by clear communication and a solid lease agreement.
The bottom line is that there are no across-the-board laws for who is responsible to repair a broken appliance.
In other words, whatever a landlord includes about appliance repair responsibilities into 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, then that will also be upheld.
No matter which way the lease agreement handles repairs, it is critical that you and the applicant have a discussion about 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 own appliances, they are completely responsible for repairs, plus any damage that their appliance might cause to the unit, like water damage from a leaking washer.

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 as a result of that use, become theirs.
Some landlords take a middle ground and differentiate between damage or breaking vs. normal wear and tear.
For example, if a refrigerator needs repair due to tenant damage, he or she would be responsible for the repair.
If the refrigerator just stops working due to age or normal wear and tear, the landlords handles it.
Also, many landlords include language that puts responsibility on the tenant if they fail to report a problem with the appliance, like a leaky dishwasher, and the delay causes more damage to the appliance or surrounding area.
If the tenant does contract out for repairs, make sure 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 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 is supplying their own appliances, then 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 the conversation with the tenant about everyone’s repair responsibilities.
As with everything, communication is key to avoiding conflict.

How long does a landlord have to fix appliances?

If an appliance does break down and you are the one responsible for repairs, the law steps in and 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 have a reasonable time to 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 that 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 then you will most likely be thumbing through the online directory just looking for a place that you hope will do a good job.

Pro Tip: Many RentPrep clients have shared with us that they find contractors by going to the tool rental of their local Home Depots and Lowe’s. The person there deals with contractors every day and can provide you insights that online directories cannot.

Do the research ahead of time and find a company that has 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.

Keep Appliances Under Control

Appliances can be amazing amenities for your rental property that can put it above the competition when it comes to attracting quality tenants.
However, without some kind of organized approach to tracking purchase, maintenance and condition, managing the appliances within your rental properties can create way too much stress and work for you.
To protect you, your tenant and your wallet, develop an appliance inventory system that works for you.
Do you have an appliance inventory system? What are some tips you’d like to share on how you make it work?

Landlord Appliance FAQs

How to find a deal on 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 come up in our Facebook Group and it started an awesome 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 $500 Home Depot gift card at Giant Eagle, get free gas, purchase fridge at Home Depot with free delivery.

42 Comments

  1. We have a clause that states the tenant has use of the appliances, but if they fail, it is the tenant’s responsibility to repair (if they choose to) or replace that appliance. Of course if they replace the new appliance then goes with them when they move.

    • I like that approach Bill. Good tenants treat their dwelling as if they owned it, so repairs and replacements on appliances should matter to them.

  2. We are currently renting a home that came with a washer and dryer. Recently the plumbing in the home went out and we had to live through a 2 month kitchen renovation. 2 weeks after repair the washer went out (its main water line was connected to the pipes that went bad). Long story short the technician came out to repair the washer and found that there was dirt, rocks and debri in the washer hose that ultimately made the pump go out. He said it was in no way caused by normal clothes washing and most likely do to bad pipes. Our rental agreement states we are responsible for appliance repairs that are caused by us. Obviously this was not. Do you think we have ground to stand on in getting our landlord to cover the $300 repair cost?

    • Danielle, it sure sounds like the damages were out of your control. But regardless, you need to approach this with good communication in mind. Be upfront, but not aggressive, about your concerns.
      Landlords are just people, and like any population of people you have some that are reasonable and some that are unreasonable. A reasonable landlord should see the value in taking care of this repair, especially if you’re a good tenant. An unreasonable landlord might try to stick to the letter-of-the-lease and tell you it’s your responsibility. No different than if leased a car and something broke that wasn’t covered under warranty. The lease may be written to in fact hold you responsible.
      So again, approach it reasonably with honest, open communication. And hopefully the landlord reciprocates.

  3. The lease my tenant signed stated the dryer and extra fridge were use at your own risk and the landlord provided no warranty. The lease did not state what the tenant was to do when the appliances broke. At the end of the lease, these appliances were missing. The tenant said they broke but never told anyone, they were too expensive to repair and she disposed of them. I believe they didn’t break and she took them with her to her new residence! Was getting rid of them without approval from me within her legal right?
    Also, she moved out 9 days before her lease ended but did pay for the full month. She kept key access to the property in order to clean and returned them on the date her lease ended. She is claiming I violated the lease because I did not give her a written list of damages within 3 days of her vacating the property. When does the 3 days rule take effect, the date the tenant moved her belongings or the date the lease ended and she returned the keys?

  4. Tamar, sounds like you’re dealing with a professional tenant here.
    First off, you can absolutely charge the missing appliances as damages and deduct them from a security deposit. A final move-out inspection would indicate the items were missing. I would also take pictures to document everything you can.
    With regard to the 3 day rule – it’s when the lease ends and the final inspection is performed. Which in this case, would be after she returned the keys. Otherwise you entering the property without her permission would be a violation of her rights as a tenant.
    It sounds to me like you’ve done everything right. This tenant is trying to take advantage and I would be prepared to defend yourself if needed. If you have an attorney it would be a good idea to consult with them to be sure you’re following all of your state rules. This way, when/if the tenant decides to take you to court for withholding the security deposit you can rest assured that she’ll get nowhere.

  5. Jennifer, don’t hire your own repairman and expect to deduct it from the rent. There are a whole set of steps that need to be taken before you can do this.
    You need to be dealing with one entity, either the PM or the landlord. This whole situation is pretty unprofessional and I can’t imagine the PM would be happy to know this is happening. I’d make it clear to both entities that you expect the lease to be followed just as they would expect you to follow. The lease protects you as much as it does them.

  6. Kim, the first thing I would do is draw up a new lease. Since the tenant had been there awhile I’m assuming he’s on a month to month lease. Getting a new lease would fix a lot of these issues and get rid of any questions as to whether you owed him something because he’s been under a different lease agreement.
    Be sure to make the lease specific and address all of these issues. If the tenant doesn’t like the new terms then he will have to leave.
    To answer your question specifically, do you have to repair the stove – if you supplied it, I would say yes. Even though right now you don’t have a lease with language specifying that, it can be assumed that you replaced the existing appliance with one that should be operable. If the question of it’s safety is coming into play, you need a professional to come out and inspect it. If it passes inspection, the tenant has no reason to complain.

  7. Not sure how the property management company will deal with the dishwasher being requested and then returned. I can see them saying, well you asked for it and now you got it. Unfortunately that happens sometimes when you don’t put too much thought into something.
    On the other hand, the lease could mention something about taking the unit back. Without seeing it I can’t say.
    In my opinion, what’s really happening is that you are likely now known as the “pain in the neck” tenants. So I doubt they’ll be in a hurry to run up and remove the dishwasher for you. A fair compromise would be to say – I’ll keep the dishwasher here without using it until you can come up and get it, but I shouldn’t have to pay the monthly fee once notice was given that I didn’t want it.
    Unless of course, the lease says otherwise.

  8. It’s not illegal in the sense that a crime has been committed. Should you get a dishwasher if it’s in your lease? Yes. Just ask for one if you don’t have it. If they say no, then have the rent adjusted to reflect a lease without a dishwasher.

  9. I don’t think that language is fuzzy Kristin.. it sounds like the landlord is stating that if the appliances breakdown you can either pay to have them repaired, or not use them. It’s not your “responsibility” to fix them seeing that it’s your discretion.

  10. Amanda, I would use an addendum to officially note the appliances and your policies. Something simple you type out will do and there’s no need for an official template you’d have to pay for.
    It should include the property address and tenant’s name at the top. Then a small paragraph saying something to the effect of “this addendum is for the appliances included in the rental agreement. Tenant agrees that the appliances are in good condition and will report any existent damage within 5 days of signing the addendum, and will assume any responsibility for any unreported or additional damage caused during the lease period. Damage is considered anything outside of normal wear and tear. The residence is equipped with the following items:
    Then list the items and have them sign and you sign as well.
    Now.. as for whether he can refuse to sign; unfortunately yes he can refuse. Ultimately he can choose to ride out the existing lease until it ends. But it sounds like you have a longer term tenant here and I wouldn’t expect that from this situation. I would go into the situation with the attitude that since the appliances have been changed, you want to be sure to add the addendum for his protection. This addendum will ensure that the tenant’s rights and responsibilities are spelled out in the event you sell the property. This way another owner can’t come in and start claiming that something was stolen or is missing from an inventory list somewhere.
    Let me know how it goes. Although I’m pretty confident it’ll go smoothly for you. It might be a different story if you were dealing with someone on their first lease term.

  11. Continue to follow up – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That is, if the housing office is responsible for repairs. Be sure you’re not waiting on them and they’re expecting you to fix it.

  12. I live in Ohio and have vaulted 20 foot ceilings with sophisticated track lighting. I have been in the same condo for 2 years, and for that entire duration, if I have needed a bulb changed from this area, a maintenance man would come out and do it. Additionally, I would always wait until there were 3 out before I would ask, as to not waste their time. However, just this week, I was told that they were my responsibility “per the lease”, even though this has not been the standard of care for 1.5 years. The only mention of “bulbs” is as follows – “When the Tenant moves in, the Landlord shall furnish light bulbs for fixtures furnished by the Landlord; thereafter, light bulbs of the same wattage shall be replaced at the Tenant’s expense.” I am happy to pay for them.
    Additionally, under “landlord duties” it states:
    B. Make all repairs and do whatever is reasonably necessary to put and keep the Premises in a fit and habitable condition;
    C. Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning fixtures and appliances, and elevators, supplied, or required to be supplied by the Landlord;
    And under “tenant duties” it states:
    G. Maintain in good working order and condition any range, refrigerator, dishwasher, or other appliances supplied by the landlord;
    H. Promptly notify the landlord of the need for repairs;
    I feel that it is dangerous for me to buy a ladder and climb up to do this, not to mention, why this sudden change after 2 years?? Do I have any recourse as he has been providing this service and the lease is so vague? Would really appreciate your assistance!

  13. Not sure how a pool heater would fit into the schema of “necessary repairs”. I could see the law seeing that as an added convenience versus the pool being unusable. Good question that I don’t know the answer to. I’d check with your local municipality as this is something that might vary not only from state to state, but even by region. In other words, I live in Buffalo NY, so my municipality would likely have no language about pool heaters. But in Florida I’m sure that it could exist.

  14. Absolutely. That would be considered outside of normal wear and tear if it was your responsibility to maintain the appliances.

  15. Sounds shady Robert. Were you given a SODA form? It details what the security deposit was used for in the event of damages, etc.

  16. No, they are a part of the property and belong to the owner. You cannot have them because they weren’t mentioned explicitly in the lease.

  17. The reasonable side of me says to leave the one shelf out and move on. But there’s also a part of me that sees tenants abuse property and purposely cause problems, in which case I say go after the security deposit if you haven’t already returned it.
    If this were me, the type of tenant would be the biggest factor in how I handled it. If it was a good tenant and likely meant no harm, just a mistake, then let it go and move on. Unless the whole fridge is shot, it’s not worth chasing a few bucks from an otherwise good tenant.
    If you were thinking about trying to replace the entire fridge, I’d tread very carefully. I’ve seen MANY cases where a landlord tried to exaggerate damages and the judge crushed them in court. The tenant is typically looked at as the victim, so you already have the cards stacked against you.

  18. I’m assuming that the unit came with those appliances, and you just happened to have your own. So in this case, where else would the appliances be stored? I get where you’re coming from but there is a problem from both sides of this situation.
    If the landlord wanted to, they could have refused to allow your own appliances. So I can see why they’d want to store them in the garage and keep them with the unit for when you leave. So in this case, you’ll have to meet them halfway. They allowed your appliances, you have to keep theirs stored. Sounds pretty fair to me.

  19. Sorry to hear that Brett. That stuff drives me nuts and I see it all the time.
    In fact, I recently met a landlord at a local landlord association meeting and he had the same story. I helped him get his documents together and file a Police report, assuming this was straight up theft! But I was shocked to hear that the Police wouldn’t touch it and considered it a civil matter. In which case the only recourse was to try to get a judgement for the value of the appliances and try to collect from the past tenants. Good luck with that.

  20. Give a timeline to either supply the items, or negotiate a new price. Don’t just stop paying a portion because then you’ll be in the wrong. But if you give notice that will force the landlord to make a choice.

  21. Absolutely ask for the upgrades Rachael. For no other reason than you sound like a reasonable person, and your request is certainly reasonable. Most landlords will bend over backwards for a good long-term tenant so I think you got a good shot. Approach it just like you did on your comment and it would be hard to deny your request.

  22. Tracy, your comment brings up a very important fundamental question.. what is a good tenant actually worth? How much does tenant turnover cost you in lost rent, repairs, marketing, etc.? The point I’m making is that I LOVE long-term tenants and try to keep them happy however I can, within reason. I can see how the excessive repairs and replacements are getting annoying, but I wonder if considering what turning the property over might put things into perspective. In other words, that $300 microwave is a small percentage of what a month’s vacancy would cost.
    Now, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to get walked on and taken advantage of by a tenant who doesn’t respect your property. So you’ll have to draw a line at some point to set some parameters of what’s reasonable and what’s excessive. This should be done in writing, via an addendum, added to a new lease. Even if you keep them on a month to month lease since they’ve been there so long, I’d still present a new lease and make those terms month to month if necessary.

  23. Not if the appliance is included in the lease. And yes, regardless of what the landlord wants to call it, you are under a lease agreement. Even if it’s only month to month. And the landlord would have to hold up their end of the agreement as well throughout each month.

  24. The amount charged exceeding the value of the appliance happens all the time. It happens with cars and houses we buy and anything else that charges interest on the loan. So I see no issues here. As for the carpeting, I assume you mean charged to have it replaced or cleaned after move out, correct? In which case, you would typically be responsible for excessive wear and tear.

  25. I know in some states refrigerators need to have the doors removed when storing them to prevent children from being locked in. Other than this, I’m not aware of any laws that require the removal for being an eye sore. Although I would agree with you.
    Your best bet would be to continue to follow up with management. Perhaps even get the other tenants to rally around the cause and get them to make the same requests.

  26. Well, technically you may be correct James. But you need to consider if the few bucks you saved on the refrigerator is worth having problems with a tenant. And since you’re talking about a condo, I have to imagine that it’s somewhat nice there. You can’t install a junky old refrigerator and expect the tenant to feel respected. And you certainly can’t expect the tenant to treat the unit with respect when you’re not treating with the same respect. To me this is business decision, not an issue about what the law states. Spend the extra on a new refrigerator that looks nice and makes the tenant proud to live there. A good long term tenant is worth 10 times what you’ll spend on the refrigerator.

  27. Did you throw it out? I mean, according to the lease it should probably have been mentioned. But this doesn’t mean she won’t be upset to find out you threw it out. Either way, have good communication and explain your situation.

  28. I’m a landlord tenant is on month-to-month I’ve done everything I can with a dishwasher that is under warranty but yet there’s still been issues they’re complaining to me now and extremely rude again I’ve done everything under warranty isn’t that my right to seek warranty repair before having to buy a new one.. again no lease in effect they’re just month to month now

  29. Hi, I am set to move into a new apartment and have my own stainless steel appliances. The apartment has a refrigerator and stove that is old and the oven does not work LL says it can be fixed, as I was going over the lease (didn’t sign it yet) it says I am to leave my appliances in the apartment should I move out being that she is removing her old stove and fridge. Can she legally keep my appliances if I move out? Any advice is much appreciated. Thank you.

  30. I am a tenant. My unit has a range/oven that has been red tagged by the Gas Company and deemed hazardous as it has several gas leaks. My landlord has not repaired or replaced it, and its been 3 weeks. She also told me that I cannot purchase a new one myself as I am not authorized to bring in or remove anything from the apartment. However, when I moved in, I purchased my refrigerator and washer/dryer. She was not my landlord at the time, it switched ownership. So, my questions are; 1. In California, what is reasonable amount of time that a landlord has to repair or replace an appliance? 2. Is a range/stove considered a necessity for habitability? I would sure think so as we can’t afford to feed a family eating out every meal, and/or have our diet affect our health. O3. Am I really not allowed to replace an appliance myself and remove the broken one? What are my rights? Thanks so much.

  31. What rights do I have as a tenant, if it turns out the cooling and heating unit is not powerful enough for a house of this size, thus causing really high utility bills? We have lived here about 4 months and have notices over the last month that our A/C is not able to keep the house reasonably cool. The lowest temperature we can achieve is 78 degrees and that requires the unit to run for over 14 hours straight every day. Our rent is at the very high end for a house of this size and age in our area. The real estate agent told us we had a 5 ton unit, turns out the unit is only 3 ton. Can I insist the rent be lowered based on this information?

  32. Hi,
    I’m a first time landlord and unfortunately the tenants let my house in very bad shape after one year! Big holes in walls, super dirty walls and doors, an German cockroach infestation, very dirty grout at kitchen and the stove got a big grassy spot that was scrubbed and so the aluminum got scraped all over at the digital monitor level. The stove was bought in 2016 and now looks like a dusty old stove. I don’t know if I’m able to replace the stove and deduct from the security deposit? Or how can I deal with this, I want the stove as how I give it to them! The deposit won’t cover all the things that need to be fix! By the way the house is in Oakland, CA, I’m thinking to fix some things by my self but not sure if I can deduct an hourly rate for fixing those things from the deposit.
    Thank you so much for your help!!

  33. I am a tenant with a wonderful landlord, however, w have an issue that I feel we are going to clash on. Kitchen appliances were included in the house and the lease says we are responsible for repairs. A few months ago the thermostat went out, we believe, because everything in the refrigerator is freezing solid. Problem is, someone before us removed the sticker from inside the refrigerator which included the model number and the landlord can’t find the appliance information/manual, he said it is 24 years old. Because it is so old, new similar fridge parts aren’t computable… we have to have the model number. It makes it virtually impossible for us to get repaired. I feel age of the appliance and the circumstances should void our responsibility.

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