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How to request repairs from your landlord
Sample maintenance/repair requests
When you live in a rental, especially an older unit, you’ll eventually need something fixed. Who’s responsible — you or your landlord?
In most cases, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to repair and replace appliances that have been in place for years or major damage as well as structural, electrical, heating, and plumbing. The lightbulb and/or pipe you clogged in your apartment, is likely on you.
It’s important to read your lease agreement and know your city laws and regulations — especially if you feel you are being treated unfairly. Here are a few steps to help you get the repairs and maintenance to your apartment you need.
What is the landlord responsible for?
In most states, landlords are legally required to maintain a safe and habitable unit for you for the duration of your lease. This includes maintaining common areas as well.
- This includes most issues related to heating, leaky ceilings, structural problems, big plumbing problems, electrical wiring, broken appliances, and pest infestations. The exact laws vary depending on the city and state you live in, and you can learn specifics by reading your lease, Roost’s Renters Rights section and/or contacting your local housing authority and tenants union.
- Your landlord isn’t typically responsible for fixing minor problems – ones that are deemed a pain and inconvenient but not necessarily making your place uninhabitable. Examples include old paint, worn carpet, torn window screens and dripping faucets. This doesn’t mean you can’t request repairs for minor problems, but the responsibility of who does it is less clear. That said, if the cosmetic problem could also cause liability to another human or greater damage to the property– like someone tripping over the carpet snag or the pipe leak causing water damage, your repairs will most likely get made.
What to do if something in your apartment breaks?
1. Send your landlord/property manager a repair/maintenance request in writing.
It’s important that you jump on this and do it right away. Make sure to send your request by email, even if it’s a follow up to your in-person or phone call conversation. Include details so that your landlord has enough information to identify the right person to fix the problem. If your apartment community has an online request process or requires you to fill out a form — make sure to get a copy for your records.
2. Be nice. Charm. Even consider a small tip.
At any given time the building could have multiple repair requests. If you live in a larger complex, your manager may be overwhelmed. A pleasant personality and thank you tip or gesture (like a bag of their favorite candy) can go a long way to getting help fast. Or, maybe even getting your priority for an upgrade/new appliance.
3. Cooperate to get the repair scheduled.
If it’s not a safety issue, it may take your landlord a week or so to coordinate a repair person onsite. The scheduled repair time often correlates to the severity of the problem. Make sure your landlord follows the “notice to enter” requirement of your lease. If your repairs are critical (like heat not working in the winter), you are protected by state laws that govern how much time your landlord has to respond.
Sample emails for repair/maintenance requests to landlord
Here are a couple of sample email templates to help you make your repair/maintenance request.
Sample #1 Repair/Maintenance Request Email to Landlord
Dear [Name ]
Thanks for the conversation today. As discussed, my [name what’s broken] is broken in my apartment and needs repair asap [describe details]. (optional: The condition has arisen through no fault, abuse, or negligence on my (our) part and if it’s not repaired, the damage will get worse).
My apartment number unit is [ ]. Please contact me asap to schedule the repair, and let me know if there is anything I (we) might do to help facilitate.
You may reach me by email or at [phone number].
Sample #2 Repair/Maintenance Demand Email/Letter
Dear [Name ]
My [name what’s broken] is broken in my apartment and needs repair asap. I’ve sent you [x] emails and left you [x] voicemail without response.
The following items are in need of repair asap [include details or list]
My apartment number [X and X apartment complex]. In accordance with [state maintenance and repairs ordinance reference — see Roost Renter Rights] you are required to ensure my unit is safe and habitable. These conditions have arisen through no fault, abuse, or negligence on my (our) part and make my apartment/house/condo uninhabitable.
Please contact me immediately to schedule repairs and to avoid further legal action, up to and including small claims court, as allowed by law.
You may reach me by email or at [phone number].
What to do if your landlord won’t make the repair?
The worse the problem is, the quicker your landlord needs to respond. If you have a toilet flooding into your bedroom or your heater is broken in the middle of winter, it’s not unreasonable to expect the problem to be fixed within 24 to 48 hours. If the problem is a minor repair or something that isn’t impacting your safety, then most states consider under 30 days a “reasonable” time period. Check the specifics for your city laws and regulations.
You have a few options if your landlord won’t make major repairs in a reasonable timeframe (assuming your are current with rent and you’ve followed the rules for requesting repairs).
- If your landlord fails to address a major problem, tenants in many states have options such as withholding the rent. You may be able to order repairs yourself and deduct the costs from your rent — or withhold a portion of rent until your major repair is made. Consider consulting an attorney or local housing resource to see what options local law allows.
- Break your lease and move out early if the situation is not improved.
- Report your landlord to your building owner or housing agency.
- As a last resort, propose mediation or sue your landlord. You can sue for any harm you incur, such as the cost of paying for repairs out-of-pocket or the cost of having to replace personal items damaged. You must make sure you are not at fault to win.
Getting repairs made in your apartment
You have rights and protections — the law requires your apartment be safe and habitable so your landlord must fix major repairs. That is, keep electrical, heating, and plumbing systems working safely; the structure of the building in good condition and supply hot and cold water. Most landlords just need notice and the details to fix the problem. Keep in mind, however, that if a problem is the result of your own carelessness—your landlord has the right to charge you for the repair or take the cost of repair out of your security deposit.
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