When you’re a tenant, you usually look to your landlord to take care of stuff for you. Even though you have several responsibilities (such as keeping the home sanitary), the landlord is supposed to take care of the home itself, including maintenance works that may be required for property upkeep.
But when something breaks, should the tenant immediately call the maintenance person to come and help? Or should they work through the landlord first?
This article will help you sort it out and get things moving quickly.
Step 1: Consult the landlord or property manager.
Your first step as a tenant should always be reaching out to the landlord or property manager. The maintenance person will technically work for them, whether an employee or a contractor. However, 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.
Step 2: Make the call yourself in certain situations.
The most common exception to the rule is when apartment complexes ask you to contact the maintenance team yourself directly. 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. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to wait it out if the pipes in the unit above you burst, and your place is getting flooded. It would help if you had someone out there ASAP!
The heater conking out during the winter months is another big deal. There are laws in place for landlords to protect their tenants when it comes to this. The same goes for gas leaks. The odd smell is important to check out and hopefully, your landlord has given safety instructions in terms of who to contact.
In these cases, you may contact maintenance before reaching out to your landlord or manager. Of course, you should still let management know, but time is of the essence in these situations.
The third scenario is with a landlord who doesn’t take action. They have been notified of the issue but are not doing anything about it. Again, when to call maintenance 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 you caused the issue, you are not legally responsible for fixing the problem- the landlord is. However, they are legally obligated to provide a safe home for you to live in. That includes proper electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC, among others.
Step 3: Determine who is responsible for the cost.
Finally, as referenced earlier, your landlord is responsible for the maintenance call if the issue arises from 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 to rectify the situation. For this reason, some tenants opt to secure their lease with renter’s insurance.
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 comes back to you asking 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 when to call maintenance is relatively simple- contact your landlord or property manager first unless told otherwise or it’s an emergency. Once you speak with them, you can work together on the next step.