It's important to be an expert communicator when you need something repaired in your apartment or in your building. Though certain repairs are your landlord's responsibility, like a burned-out bulb in a common area, certain things are yours to fix. We'll help you figure out the difference.
wear and tear versus accidental damage
If a machine or appliance in your apartment that was provided by your landlord breaks, who's responsible for fixing it?
Some appliances and structures are expected to decline or quit functioning after months or years of use — like, for instance, a washing machine provided by your landlord that's been in your place for years — and those are your landlord's responsibility to replace if they fail.
If something malfunctions or breaks as a result of an accident or negligence caused by you, your child, or perhaps your pet, then you'll likely have to shell out the cash for repairs.
Depending on the laws in your area and the terms of your lease agreement, you're generally not responsible for repairing or replacing structures that cease to function (like a dishwasher or garbage disposal) as a result of everyday use, otherwise known as wear and tear.
But let's say you improperly dispose of cooking grease in your kitchen sink — a known plumbing no-no — and clog a pipe; you'll probably have to pay for those repairs.
When it comes to paying for damages, it often depends on the contract you have with your landlord (which is why you should always get it in writing!). If you feel you're being treated unfairly or don't know the protocol for requesting a repair from your landlord, be sure to brush up on your tenant rights.
maintenance: in-unit versus common areas
When it comes to smoke detectors, light bulbs, and other little essentials in your home, everything should be in working order when you first move in — your landlord must make sure of that. Full functionality of the resources in your home constitutes a safe, secure living environment, and that's what you're entitled to by law.
But once you're living there, it's up to you to maintain the items in your unit. If your smoke detector needs new batteries, don't call your landlord. As the current tenant, it's your responsibility to replace batteries and light bulbs in your home.
It's different when it comes to shared areas in an apartment building. For instance, if a light goes out in your stairwell, who pays for a new one and installs it? Both are your landlord's responsibility.
The same goes for a smoke detector that needs new batteries. If it's in the common area, your landlord has to keep it functioning for all tenants. Otherwise, a single renter in your building could constantly be paying to replace something everyone in the building benefits from (and it could be you).
Things that could be considered cosmetic details in common areas — like sweeping that same stairwell — aren't necessarily a given. Unless you're paying into a separate fee for keeping the building maintained in a certain way (like dusting or sweeping in stairwells or entranceways), it's unlikely that your landlord is going to keep the common area, well, squeaky clean.
added protection with renters insurance
Because your landlord won't, say, replace your table and chairs in the event of a kitchen fire, it's important to have renters insurance in your corner. Renters insurance not only guards your belongings against theft and damage, but it even helps cover additional living expenses if you're ever forced out of your apartment by a covered loss.
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