Leasing an Apartment – What You Should Know About Maintenance Requests

Maintenance of your apartment is something of a two-way street. As a tenant, you have certain responsibilities for maintaining your apartment. The Landlord also has certain maintenance responsibilities. You are, in a business sense, partners in the well-being of your apartment. So, let’s explore the responsibilities in your maintenance partnership.

You, the Tenant

Before you sign your lease, ask the landlord or his/her acting agent how to report a maintenance request or safety issue. There may be a specific form, an emergency contact phone number, or an online system for reporting your concern – or any combination of the three.

As long as you reside in your apartment, you will have some ongoing housekeeping responsibilities, including:

• Properly disposing of garbage, rubbish, and waste.
• Keeping plumbing fixtures as clean as possible.
• Using all electrical, heating, ventilating, A/C, sanitary, and plumbing systems appropriately.
• Using all common area facilities like elevators, stairways, laundry rooms, etc., appropriately.
• Repairing or replacing what you break or damage.

There are two remaining responsibilities of particular importance:

• You are expected to keep your apartment in as clean and safe a condition as possible.
• You must promptly notify the landlord of damage, defective, or dangerous conditions in either your apartment or in the common areas.

Consider the benefits of being a considerate and proactive tenant:

• You may be building a good-will relationship with the landlord, acting agent, or both. That person may be more inclined to granting an occasional favor like granting an additional parking space on a temporary basis, or other consideration.

• You may be more likely to receive a positive reference when you move on to your next apartment.

The Landlord/Acting Agent

The landlord (or the landlord’s designated acting agent), is responsible “for keeping your rental unit in a livable condition.” This is a significant responsibility beyond a legal obligation to you.

A leaking faucet, frayed wiring, or unreliable hot and cold water supplies aren’t just annoying (and potentially hazardous) issues to you; they may also adversely affect the structure of the building. This increases the landlord’s responsibility to you, the other tenants, visitors, and owner(s) of the rest of the building. Your landlord is responsible for:

• Ensuring that the property is in habitable condition when you move in.
• Ensuring that necessary repairs and maintenance are completed in a timely way to keep the property in safe and habitable condition.
• Ensuring that the unit is outfitted with the proper safety equipment and functions (latches, deadbolt, smoke detectors, etc.) as required by city and/or state regulations.

Requesting Maintenance

In most non-emergency circumstances, your maintenance request should be made in writing. A casual “by the way… ” mention may be sufficient but can just as easily be forgotten. A written request documents the problem and your request for resolution.

In polite language, clearly and simply state the request. Consider including these “themes” in your letter:

• A simple but complete description of the problem.
• An explanation of how the situation is becoming/will become worse and more costly to repair if not quickly addressed.
• Point out any safety or security risks that your problem may be creating, especially if the problem affects other tenants’ safety.

You do have some legal recourse if your maintenance requests are ignored, particularly if they affect your safety or health (or others’ health and safety). But before you threaten or take extreme action, try the step-by-step approach with courtesy and an in the spirit of partnership. After all, you are also looking after the well-being of the landlord’s property.

That approach may be all it takes to form a long-lasting positive landlord/tenant relationship and a happy residence for years to come.