how long does a landlord have to fix something

If you are a landlord for an apartment building or rental property, then you know the pitfalls of the profession. Getting tenants in the building who will pay bills on time and who understand how much work you do can sometimes seem like too big of an ask when problems are constantly arising. 

Well, when it comes to being a landlord, you have some other responsibilities that are a requirement of the job. Fixing things in and around the building is one of the top priorities that a landlord will deal with. But how long does a landlord have to fix an issue like a leaking roof, air conditioning, or a hot water heater? 

It depends on each problem and can vary widely by the severity of the issue and the importance of whatever needs fixing. So, you can get all the information you need about how long you have to fix your tenant’s problems here, so you can make sure to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time. 

Table Of Contents For How Long Do You Have To Make Repairs 

6 Common Problems That A Landlord Will Likely Have To Fix 

carpenter make repairsAs a landlord, you will deal with a multitude of issues over the course of your life, but there are a few common issues that you will likely deal with again and again. These common problems are mold, hot water, air conditioning units, a leaking roof, carpet cleaning or replacement, and refrigerator repairs. 

These common problems are going to eventually need to be worked on in one way or another, so knowing what you will need to do beforehand will help you out tremendously. These six common issues are ones that will continue to need work because they are items that are heavily used. 

1. Carpeting, for example, often needs cleaning because of people walking on it with dirty shoes. Or, there could be a spill or two that needs to be deep cleaned to remove a stain. 

2. The water heater is often used in heating showers or cooking, so this is another item that can need repair work fairly often.

Air conditioning units are used often during the summer, so during the hot months of the year, tenants may overuse their AC unit and cause it to need repair. 

3. Refrigerators are continually on, so this is one issue that is extremely common and you should prepare to repair or replace it every so often. 

Mold is another story, and it, unfortunately, is an issue that you may deal with more than once. Mold grows in moist places, so damp areas, like bathrooms, often have this problem. This is something that should be taken care of right away due to its risk of getting tenants sick. 

So, if your tenant encounters any of these issues while in your apartment building or rental property, what should you know about taking care of these problems? Here are a few of the things that you need to know about addressing your tenant’s concerns. 

How Long Does A Landlord Have To Fix Something? 

Depending on the issue that the tenant wants fixing, you should adjust accordingly to make sure that the most important problems are taken care of first and repairs need to be made in a reasonable time. All tenants will want to have their problem dealt with quickly, but you don’t want to leave one tenant with a major issue to fix a small problem for another. Also, your priority of fixing or repairing items will depend on whether these infringe on the tenant’s right to live in an inhabitable property and if there are any health and safety risks associated with non-repair. 

So, knowing how long it will take to fix each issue is an important part of your job as a landlord. The exact number of days can vary by state, so it can be a bit confusing for landlords to find the specific number of days they have to fix a certain issue. 

Refrigerators 

When a tenant’s fridge breaks down and their food is spoiling, that can cause some irate phone calls to come your way. But how long does a landlord have to replace a refrigerator? This depends on the state, which all have different timelines and some who don’t require you to fix or replace it.

But the average time allowed for fixing this issue is between 14 and 30 days. This allows you to find someone who will come in and fix or replace the fridge within a reasonable amount of time. A fix like this should be a high priority, however, because of the issue of not being able to keep food from spoiling. 

Hot Water 

Fixing a problem in a tenant’s apartment will usually allow you 30 days or so of time to get the job done yourself. However, in certain situations, there are reasons why you should fix the issue sooner, rather than later. 

Issues like a broken water heater can be an issue that needs much more immediate attention. But how long does a landlord have to fix a hot water heater? Although 30 days may typically be the cut-off, if a water heater breaks during the winter months, then you should get to it as soon as possible

Not being able to heat water for showers in the dead of winter (or even summer) can be a major issue or even an emergency for tenants, especially if they have children. And, according to many state’s laws, once they give written notice that they want it fixed and why they could take legal action if it is not taken care of promptly, is cause for you to have it fixed in three business days. 

So, it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to major issues and emergency situations (that is, anything related to power, water, and heat). 

Mold 

house mold issueIssues with mold can happen anywhere but are usually seen in warm damp places like basements, attics, or areas that have low ventilation and high humidity. This can sometimes end up causing mold to grow in that area. 

This can be a major issue because fixing a mold problem can be costly, but if it is not taken care of, then it could cause tenants to get sick. So, how long does a landlord have to fix a mold problem? In fact, it is not clearly stated that landlords are responsible for mold issues and treatment directly at all. 

However, if any harm comes to tenants because of this problem, or if the city or state has a public health nuisance law that mold can fall under, then you could end up paying out money for not fixing the problem. 

So, when notified of the problem, this issue should be taken care of sooner rather than later if the issue is severe to keep you safe from any legal ramifications if tenants get sick. And, to keep you from paying for even more costly fixes down the road. 

Air Conditioning 

Now, this unit may sound more like a luxury than a necessity in some places. However, in areas where the summertime heat reaches extremely high temperatures, the air conditioning unit can be seen as a right to make the property inhabitable. By law, in some states, an air conditioning unit is covered under the tenant’s rights.

In warm states like Florida and California, air conditioning units are an essential way to survive the hot weather. But if an AC unit is broken, then how long does a landlord have to fix the air conditioning in states such as California and Florida?

In California, there is no rule that forces you to fix the issue with an AC unit within a few days, so the rule of 30 days from when the tenant reports the problem is the norm. This allows you the time to call someone to repair the unit before the tenant can do it themselves and deduct the cost from their rent. 

So, how long does a landlord have to fix the air conditioning in Florida? Similar to California, Florida does not require you to fix the issue within a small time frame and, therefore, abides by the 30-day “rule”. However, this is something that should be fixed promptly during the hottest months of the year. 

Also similar to California, if a Florida tenant does not have their AC unit fixed within those 30 days, then they can pay for the repair themselves and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent. This is best to be avoided, so it is recommended to take care of the problem well within those 30 days. 

Carpeting

When renting out an apartment, one issue that will come up after each tenant moves out is the condition of the carpet. The issue of how often a landlord should replace the carpet, and who pays for carpet cleaning, tenant or landlord, is a debate that both sides seem to disagree on routinely.

So, how often does a landlord have to replace the carpet? In California, an apartment’s carpet life is 8 to 10 years. If the carpet is ruined by tenants or needs to be replaced earlier than that due to damage (and outside of what’s considered “normal wear and tear”), then it falls on the tenant.

But if the carpet is replaced after the 10-year mark, then the cost will fall to the landlord. This is not to say that you, as a landlord, should pay for it even when the damage is caused by a tenant after that time. If the carpet is well-maintained and does not need replacing, then you don’t necessarily have to. 

However, if there is an issue with the carpet due to not replacing it when you should have, then the tenant can ask you to replace it at no cost to them. If your tenant asks for the carpet to be replaced, they can either ask you directly or put in a request form for maintenance. 

However, beyond this, unless the carpet is torn so badly that it makes the apartment uninhabitable, then there is nothing else a tenant can legally do. If your tenants goes through the proper channels, you may feel more comfortable replacing the carpet if it needs to be replaced. 

Leaking Roof 

Having a leaking roof can be a small, but annoying, disruption to a tenant’s day. So, when they report a leak and ask you to fix it, you should think about taking care of it without waiting until the full time allowed for repairs. 

So, how long does a landlord have to fix a leaking roof? This again is under the reasonable time rule, which allows up to 30 days. However, the severity of the leak must be taken into consideration. If there is one small leak in which the tenant must put a small bucket underneath to catch drips, this isn’t severe. 

However, if the tenant has a leak that requires them to place a large bucket that fills up throughout the week (or faster) and must be poured out routinely, then this can be a major issue. Water damage can affect your apartment building, so you will want to take care of this issue right away or it could cost you more in the long-haul. 

How Long Can A Landlord Shut Off Water For Repairs? 

house water shut offIn the case that you need to shut your tenant’s water off in order to do repairs, like the problem with a water heater, then there are other terms you need to think about. Tenants need water to drink, use the shower, and wash dishes, so, you can’t keep the water off for too long. 

The reasonable time to get a small leak fixed is within 30 days, but in the event of a pipe bursting or a major leak that could cause water damage, that time-frame should only be a day or two. So, if the issue calls for emergency repairs, then the water will only be off for the few days that it takes to finish the job. 

This allows the workers to fix the issue without further damage, and it is not unreasonable for only a few days of work. But if a tenant is angry about water being shut off for minor repairs often, then this could be an issue. 

As a landlord, you have most likely dealt with having to do apartment wide repairs that require the water to be shut off. This is typically only for a few hours to a day or two if necessary. Only in emergency cases can water be turned off without a 24-hour notice to allow tenants to prepare. 

What Is Considered An Uninhabitable Living Situation For A Tenant?

If your apartment building is not being taken care of properly, then this could cause an uninhabitable living situation for your tenant. This brings on a host of issues that could cause tenants to move without notice or possibly even sue you for damages. 

So, what is considered an uninhabitable living situation for a tenant? This term means that the conditions of the apartment are not compliant with federal and state safety regulations or the repairs needed to create an inhabitable apartment are not being taken care of in a reasonable manner. 

This can be caused by a landlord not getting repairs done for major issues within a reasonable amount of time. Apartment repairs are essential to keeping good tenants in your building. So, how long does a landlord have to make repairs before this becomes a problem? 

Well, the 30-day rule applies here, and the landlord has to fix major issues within that time frame to avoid any other issues from arising. If this does not happen, and the landlord fails to respond or address their tenant’s right to repairs and maintenance, then they could risk losing the tenant and money.

For example, if one of your tenants reports a mold problem in the building that is causing them and their family to get sick, then not addressing that issue right away and causing the tenants to live with the mold problem could be an uninhabitable living situation. 

The tenant can’t stay there with this problem persisting, so they will be forced to leave the apartment without notice and you will be left with the expenses. If this is done for good tenants that pay rent on time, then you could risk losing a steady payment without knowing if the next tenant will be as good. 

It is in your best interest to keep up with repairs and maintenance so that your building is an inhabitable living situation for all your tenants. This also helps you to keep tenants that are pleasant, who pay rent on time, and who will likely renew their lease when the time comes. 

General Repairs 

When it comes to more general repairs around the apartment building, there may not be such an issue when it comes to wear and tear or minor damages due to age. As a landlord, you will likely have to do some general repairs to keep your building up to code and inhabitable living conditions for your tenants.

Here are a few other general repairs that you may encounter: 

Light Bulbs This can be the responsibility of the landlord, or the tenant, depending on the lease agreement. Typically, the light bulbs inside the apartment are the tenant’s responsibility, and the landlord provides them for all common areas. 
Furnace Filter This item can be spelled out in the lease as the responsibility of the tenant or the landlord; however, it is recommended for the landlord to replace. This is because the filter affects air quality that could make for uninhabitable living conditions, and the filter makes the furnace work harder, which will cost more to fix in the long run. 
Plumbing and Electrical Work  This is typically the responsibility of the landlord to keep up with routine maintenance and fix any tenant issues. The exception to this is if there is damage caused by tenant misconduct.
Permanent Light Fixtures Although lightbulbs may or may not be the tenant’s responsibility, the light fixture should not be. Normal wear and tear may cause some damage to these fixtures, and this should be taken care of by the landlord. If there is damage due to tenant misconduct, an exception is made.
Landscaping  Any and all landscaping around the outside of the building will fall to the landlord. Tenants should not have any responsibility put on them for maintaining the grounds around the apartment building. 

Doing these general repairs keeps your rental property in good shape for prospective tenants and keeps your current renters happy. Keeping up with minor problems can make your renters feel like you care about their home and makes them more likely to renew their lease when the time comes.

It is your best interest to get these repairs done in a reasonable time, and it also makes it easier to keep your model tenants renting from you. If you want tenants who won’t cause you problems, and who don’t cause damage to your property, then you want to keep them.

It can also be a good idea to get ahead of the game and screen potential renters so that you won’t end up paying for constant minor damages done to the apartment. Sometimes it can be difficult to prove that a tenant is the one causing the damage, and it could end up costing you money. 

Companies like RentPrep allow you to screen a potential renter before allowing them to sign a lease, which can be a great way to find out who you will be renting to and gauging whether they will be good tenants. Tenant screening allows you to see nationwide eviction reports and credit backgrounds, as well as any judgments or liens against the potential tenant.  

This can be a great way to determine whether or not you want to rent to the person before they get into the rental property. It is always good to protect yourself from paying higher costs or risk having a tenant leave or be evicted. So, screening a tenant can also help save you from spending more money in the long run.

FAQs

frequently ask questionsWith all this information, there’s a lot to take in all at once. So, you may still have a few questions that you would like answered. We have taken two of the most frequently asked questions from landlords just like you and found reliable answers to help you out.

Can my tenant use repair-and-deduct for maintenance and repair costs? 

In short, yes, if the repair or maintenance falls under the responsibility of the landlord. This method is used only when a landlord does not take care of the issue with a reasonable amount of time – which is typically 30 days or less in an emergency situation – and does not provide their tenants with an inhabitable living situation.

This method causes the tenant to cover the cost of the repair themselves and allows them to deduct the price from their next month’s rent.

How should I charge tenants who cause damage to my rental property? 

The main way that charging a tenant is handled is by taking care of the repairs yourself, then adding the cost of the repair to their rent amount. The cost of repairing the damage that is clearly caused by a tenant due to abuse or neglect of the property is the responsibility of the renter.

The damage should not be allowed to worsen, which will cause you more money in the long run, but the cost of the repair should be solely on the tenant. However, if a tenant continually has damage done to the property, you may consider evicting them from the apartment due to continual issues. 

Conclusion 

Being a landlord is not for the weak at heart. You have to deal with many different issues from several properties at once, which can be very stressful. So, taking care of repairs quickly and efficiently will only help you in the long run to keep up your rental property for future tenants.

Whether you are becoming a landlord for the first time or you just need some more information about what your responsibilities are, this article helped you figure out how long it should take you to fix these six common issues so that you keep your rental property running smoothly. 

With so much information at once, you might not be able to recall all of it. But there are a few main points that you should aim to remember that will help you with repairs and maintenance for your apartment complex or rental property. 

  • Fixing an issue within a reasonable amount of time is always necessary 
  • You must keep an inhabitable living situation for all your tenants 
  • There are general repairs that are your responsibility as a landlord, like fixing the water heater or leaking roof 
  • Screening potential tenants can weed out unreliable renters

Overall, the most important thing to remember is to take care of your property so that you can keep your tenants happy and keep your rent money rolling in.