What’s Your Landlord’s Responsibility? And What’s Yours?

(Click to read part one)

Heat, Plumbing, and Electricity

It’s your landlord’s responsibility to maintain these things, even if you’re paying for the heat and electricity. If the toilet starts leaking, or the heat goes out, call your landlord up and get it fixed. It should be fixed for no charge.

That said, a lot of people don’t call their landlord when they should. Say you have a drip in the kitchen sink. Or your living room circuit has a tendency to overload and short the fuse. Or, one of your radiators doesn’t seem to work, though the apartment as a whole is warm enough. All of these are malfunctions that are far better to correct now, rather than when they become a bigger problem – and it will probably save your landlord money to fix them sooner rather than later. (Particularly a drippy faucet, which can cost your landlord a hundred dollars a year in water bills.) So call your landlord up and explain what’s going on. If they’re at all conscientious, they’ll appreciate knowing and will likely come by and make a fix.


Generally speaking, the exterior of the building is your landlord’s responsibility. This includes landscaping, lighting, raking, mowing, picking up errant trash, etc. The only exception is if you have an exclusive porch, garden, or patio, where you can put your own outdoor furniture, plant your own flowers, and where no other tenants in the building have access. In that case, you’re likely responsible for the general maintenance. If you have a situation you think may qualify, ask who is responsible for what.

Other Questions

So these are the basics in landlord-tenant relations. That said, there’s always grey areas, or confusing responsibilities. One way to be sure you know who does what is to read the lease thoroughly. Besides being a good idea in general, if there are any unusual responsibilities, they will be enumerated in the lease.

For example, I once had a lease that specified that the landlord was responsible for replacing the (expensive) fluorescent light in the bathroom. And another lease that stated that I was responsible for replacing the filter in furnace. Had I not read the lease, I would not have known either of these things.

And then there’s the final thing – if you’re not sure, just ask your landlord. They’ll have an opinion on the matter, that’s for sure.

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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Comments (2)

  1. Avatar Tina

    If you have an area where you can plant things in the ground, do your research before to see if what you want to plant is non-intusive and easy to get rid of. There are quite a few things that look/smell/taste desirable but spread like weeds. You don’t want to be held responsible for ruining the lawn!