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How to request repairs from your landlord
What they’re responsible for, what to do if something breaks, what to expect, and a handy-dandy draft of a sample repair request.
Living in a rental, especially an older unit, you’ll eventually need something fixed. You should decide whether the problem is significant enough to make it virtually impossible to live? If yes, who’s responsible — you or your landlord? Understand landlord repair responsibilities by reviewing our list of common issues that most landlords are expected to repair.
In most cases, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to repair and replace aged or damaged appliances as well as structural, electrical, heating, and plumbing. A dead lightbulb or drain you clogged in your apartment is likely on you. Just make sure you don’t cause further damage by fixing something you broke.
It’s important to read your lease agreement and know your city laws and regulations — especially if you feel you’re being treated unfairly. Here are a few ways to help you get the repairs and maintenance to your apartment completed.
What is the landlord responsible for?
In most states, landlords are required to maintain a safe and habitable unit for you for your lease duration. Landlord repair responsibilities include maintaining common areas as well.
This includes most issues related to heating, leaky roofs, structural problems, big plumbing problems, electrical wiring, broken appliances, and pest infestations.
Laws vary depending on the city, county or state you live in. You can learn specifics by reading your lease, Roost’s Renters Rights section, and contacting your local housing authority or 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 through your maintenance request system. If you do not have one, send an email.
Also, if your repair requires immediate help then follow-up in-person or with a phone call conversation. Include details so that your landlord has enough information to identify the right person to fix the problem. Keep a copy of your form/request and email for your records — in case your need it later.
2. Be nice
At any given time, the building could have multiple repair requests. If you live in a large 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 you priority for an upgrade or 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 repairs. 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 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 [email] or at [phone number].
Sample #2 Repair/Maintenance Demand
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 a 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 maintenance issues 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 [email] or at [phone number].
What to do if your landlord won’t make the repair?
The more severe the problem, the quicker your landlord needs to respond. If a toilet is 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 significant repairs in a reasonable timeframe (assuming you are current with rent, and you’ve followed the rules for requesting repairs).
- Break your lease and move if the situation is not improved.
- If the 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 part of the rent until your major repair is made. Consider consulting an attorney or local housing resource to see what options local law allows.
- 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 replacing damaged personal items. 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 to 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 need notice and the details to fix the problem. However, keep in mind that if a problem results from your own carelessness—your landlord has the right to charge you for repairs or take the cost of repairs out of your security deposit.
If your personal belongings are damaged due to things like a leaky roof or electrical fire, your renters insurance should be able to help you replace your damaged items.
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