Renter Advice

When to Call Maintenance in a Rental Property

1170 views March 6, 2024 Karina Jugo 2

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.

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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!

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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.

What can happen if a tenant calls maintenance directly?

Save for emergency scenarios, several potential consequences could arise if a tenant bypasses the landlord or property manager for maintenance issues. While tenants might feel they are expediting the process or addressing problems more efficiently, it can lead to complications and strained relationships between the tenant and the property owner or manager. Here are some possible outcomes:

  1. Delayed or improper maintenance: By going directly to a third-party contractor or attempting to fix the issue themselves, the tenant may not have the expertise or authority to address the problem correctly. This can result in further damage, additional costs, and potentially voiding any warranties or maintenance agreements in place.
  2. Breach of lease agreement: Most lease agreements stipulate that tenants must report maintenance issues to the landlord or property manager, who is responsible for handling repairs. Bypassing this process could be seen as a breach of the lease terms and could give the landlord grounds for eviction or other legal actions.
  3. Confusion and miscommunication: If the tenant doesn’t inform the landlord or property manager of the issue, they may be unaware of the problem until it becomes more severe. This lack of communication can lead to confusion, misunderstandings, and disputes between the tenant and property management.
  4. Payment disputes: When a tenant arranges repairs without the landlord’s involvement, issues can arise concerning who is responsible for the payment. The landlord may be reluctant to reimburse the tenant if they didn’t approve the work beforehand.
  5. Voided warranties: Many properties come with warranties on appliances or systems. If a tenant attempts to repair or replace these items without involving the landlord or property manager, they may inadvertently void these warranties, leaving them responsible for the full cost of any future repairs or replacements.
  6. Liability concerns: If a tenant hires an unqualified contractor or performs repairs themselves, they may create safety hazards or inadequate fixes. In such cases, the tenant could be held liable for any injuries or damages that result from their actions.
  7. Loss of trust and goodwill: By not following proper procedures and attempting to handle maintenance independently, the tenant may damage the trust and goodwill between themselves and the property management. This can lead to a strained relationship and make it challenging to address future issues.

Summary

While tenants might think they are saving time or taking control of maintenance issues by bypassing the landlord or property manager, it can create more problems than it solves. It’s essential for both tenants and landlords to communicate effectively and follow the agreed-upon procedures for handling maintenance and repairs to maintain a harmonious rental relationship. If a tenant has concerns about the property manager’s responsiveness, they should try to address the issue through appropriate channels before taking matters into their own hands.

Authors

  • Karina Jugo

    Karina Jugo is a content administrator at RentPost who works directly with real estate and property management experts to create resources and guides for property managers. She has more than 15 years of experience in content research and writing for various industries.

  • Jacob Thomason

    Jacob Thomason is the CEO and co-founder of RentPost, software platform providing property managers, landlord or owners with the tools necessary for property management. Jacob is a software entrepreneur with with a vast array of expertise ranging from business concept design to software architecture and development. He is running RentPost for more than 14 years and helping property managers and property owners.

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