Tenants: How to Decide When to Call Maintenance

When you’re a tenant, you normally look to your landlord to take care of you. Even though you have several responsibilities (such as keeping the home sanitary), the landlord is supposed to take care of the home itself and maintenance that may be required to care for the property.

But when something breaks, should the tenant immediately call the maintenance person to come help? Or should they work through the landlord first?

This article will help you sort it out and get things moving quickly.

First: Consult the Landlord or Property Management

Your first step as a tenant should (almost) always be reaching out to the landlord or property manager. The maintenance person will technically be working for them, whether it’s an employee or a contractor. Since you are paying for the convenience of someone else taking care of the home (i.e. the owner), you shouldn’t have to worry about making the call to maintenance yourself.

There are a few exceptions however, which are explained below.

Second: Make the Call Yourself in Certain Situations

The most common exception to the rule is when apartment complexes ask you to directly contact the maintenance team yourself. That takes the property managers out of the picture, saving everyone a little time.

Another situation that may call for immediate maintenance action is an emergency. If the pipes in the unit above you burst and your unit is getting flooded, you need someone out there ASAP. In this case, you should contact maintenance first before reaching out to your landlord or manager. You should still let management know, but time is of the essence in these situations.

The third scenario is if your landlord has been notified of the issue but doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. When to call maintenance in this situation is up to you, but you shouldn’t have to wait more than a few days before your property’s maintenance team takes action.

Keep in mind that the landlord, not you, should pay for these repairs! Unless the issue was caused by you, you are not legally responsible for fixing the problem- the landlord is. They are under legal obligation to provide a safe home for you to dwell. That includes several areas including proper electrical wiring, plumbing and HVAC.

When You’re Responsible

Finally, as referenced earlier, your landlord is responsible for the maintenance call if the issue was caused by normal wear and tear. But if you are somehow responsible for the problem, such as breaking the plumbing by flushing a diaper down the toilet, you are legally obligated for the repair.

In this case, it’s best to let the landlord know what happened and what you’re doing about it. They may have a preferred maintenance procedure or contractor to use, rather than you hiring someone else. They can then let you know if they’d like you to move forward on your own or if they’d like to handle it from there.

If the landlord allows you to pick the contractor, treat it as if they were working on a home you owned. You don’t want to hire a low-quality contractor just because they were cheap, then have something go wrong and the landlord come back to you looking to fix it again!

The Bottom Line

Almost all situations will fit into one of the scenarios described above. At the end of the day, knowing how to decide when to call maintenance is fairly simple- call your landlord or property manager first, unless told otherwise or it’s an emergency. Once you speak with them, you can work out the next step together.




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Justin Stowe

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By Justin Stowe

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