Four Questions To Ask A New Landlord About Apartment Maintenance

When your ceiling starts leaking, your dishwasher stops working, or your oven stops heating, you’ll need to call an expert to take care of your problem. If you’re renting your apartment, your landlord is likely required to schedule and pay for major repairs of this nature. While there may be a clear set of obligations or a necessary procedure through which to request repairs, you’re not necessarily thinking about those details when you can’t cook dinner or you have to keep emptying the bucket underneath the ceiling leak. To avoid these stresses, be sure to ask your landlord these four questions so you have a good handle on what actions you need to take when it’s time to make both emergency and non-emergency repairs.

1. What is the apartment maintenance policy?

Start simple and broad. When you ask a question as general and open-ended as this one, you might find that your landlord gives you a super in-depth response that answers the remaining questions on this list. As your landlord answers this question, keep an ear open for rules about which repairs the landlord requires you to make, which repairs they’ll make or arrange, and any fees you’ll have to pay for maintenance. Keep a close eye on the lease, too, which will clearly delineate the responsibilities of the landlord.

2. Which repairs am I required to make?

Sometimes, the responsibility of the repair hinges upon how or why the malfunction occurred. For example, if your toilet no longer flushes or is otherwise broken, your landlord should arrange the repair. However, if your toilet is simply clogged, the responsibility likely falls to you. When you ask your landlord which repairs you’re required to make, their answer will likely fall along these lines — bigger issues, potentially dangerous items, and services which need permitting generally require landlord intervention, whereas simple fixes are your responsibility.

3. Who schedules the appointment?

Some landlords prefer that the tenant makes the call, while other landlords may prefer to be present during the repair. Either way, it’s an important distinction to make which ensures that your repair will be scheduled in a timely and prompt manner.

4. How much, if at all, will I be paying for maintenance?

When it comes to maintenance, you likely won’t be responsible unless you did something that directly led to an issue, such as an accident that leads to a large hole in your wall. However, some landlords will charge you a fee every time you submit a maintenance request. Other landlords will implement a policy known as an insurance deductible, via which tenants will cover all repairs up to a certain dollar amount. However — and this is key — it is generally considered in poor taste for landlords to implement maintenance request fees or maintenance deductibles. Furthermore, landlords should only implement maintenance fees if there are areas with pools or landscaping on the property (this is far more common in apartment complexes and luxury rentals than in ordinary homes).

What to do if your landlord refuses to make repairs

Even if you get clear answers to all these questions, your landlord could still refuse to make repairs, whether for legitimate reasons or not. To know how to best handle this situation, read My First Apartment’s guides on unresponsive landlords, general pointers on landlord communication, and the division of rental responsibilities between tenants and landlords.

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