All tenants have a legal right to live in a rental property that is habitable. In order for a rental property to be considered habitable, it must be sanitary and structurally safe to live in. A lot of tenants question where this leaves minor and cosmetic issues with the rental property. When does the landlord have to make the repairs and when can the landlord ignore them?

What Does a Landlord Have to Fix?

Regardless of what your lease or rental agreement says, your landlord is legally obligated to make sure your home is habitable. This means your home must provide all of the following:

  • Sound structure
  • Hot and cold water
  • Non-leaking roof
  • Safe and properly functioning plumbing, heating, and electrical systems

If your property were to become infested with insects or rodents, your landlord may be required to pay for an exterminator. This tends to vary based on where you live and whether or not the infestation was your fault due to poor housekeeping.

What Does The Landlord Not Have to Fix?

Minor problems such as running toilets, dripping faucets, torn window screens, and small holes in the carpet are annoying, but they are not altering whether or not the home is habitable. Whether or not your landlord is obligated to fix these problems is going to come down to what is written into your lease or rental agreement. If the terms of your lease agreement includes fixing these minor problems, your landlord would be legally obligated to do so.

How to Get Your Landlord to Make Repairs

When a tenant is faced with problems that make the home inhabitable, getting the landlord to make repairs is as simple as withholding the rent until the landlord complies. For a tenant who is just dealing with minor repairs, however, withholding the rent can create more problems than it solves. This can be true even if the lease agreement states the landlord is responsible for minor repairs. Fortunately, there are ways to get your landlord to make repairs without withholding the rent.  

Always Put it in Writing: Every time you ask your landlord to make repairs, put the repair request in writing with the date you asked for the repair. Be specific and keep a copy of the request for your records. This paperwork will benefit you in the future if you find yourself in a situation where you need to prove the landlord or property management company did not comply with the lease agreement.

Consider Mediation: Find a free or low-cost mediation service that focuses on tenant and landlord relationships if your written request for repairs is not getting you anywhere. This can be an unbiased third party who can talk to the landlord on your behalf to find a way to get the repairs fixed.

Reporting your landlord should always be a last resort, but you should not hesitate to do so if your landlord is not keeping up with his or her end of the lease agreement.