What Are Tenant Obligations?

Definition & Examples of Tenant Obligations

Tenants walking in the front door for the first time
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Tenant obligations are the responsibilities required of a renter. These obligations may vary from state to state, but they generally involve keeping the rented space clean and in good repair.

Find out more about tenant obligations and learn what responsibilities a tenant has to their landlord.

What Are Tenant Obligations?

Tenant obligations are the terms the tenant is required to uphold in a landlord-tenant agreement. Some of these obligations are spelled out in the rental agreement or lease, while others are understood to be part of the landlord-tenant relationship.

Just as a landlord is expected to provide a habitable place to live, free of dangerous or unsanitary conditions, so is the renter expected to do their part to maintain the habitability of the space.

  • Alternate name: Tenant responsibilities

How Tenant Obligations Work

When a tenant signs a lease to rent an apartment, they are agreeing to adhere to the terms of that agreement. They have an obligation to uphold their end of the bargain.

If they fail to follow the terms of the lease they signed, it would be a breach of contract, and the landlord may be entitled to collect damages.

The exact terms of a lease vary widely, but as long as they are legal and not outlawed in the state or municipality where the rental takes place, the tenant is required to follow them.

For example, if someone rents an apartment and signs a lease, they are committing to taking good care of the rental. If a lightbulb goes out, they replace it; if the toilet clogs, they unclog it. Since they have an obligation to care for the apartment, they regularly take out the trash, clean and maintain the fridge and stove, and try to be a good neighbor to the other people in the building. By living up to these standards (and paying rent in full and on time), they are fulfilling their obligations as a tenant.

What Tenant Obligations Cover

The terms of the lease will cover the details of the landlord-tenant agreement, including dates and dollar amounts. Examples of common lease terms include:

In addition to the terms spelled out in the lease agreement, the tenant also has an obligation to maintain the premises as part of the contractual understanding between landlord and tenant. The Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act specifies what a tenant must do to ensure that maintenance. These responsibilities include:

Following building and housing codes. Tenants must abide by the sections of these codes that apply to tenants. These portions often focus on safety and health standards.

Keeping the unit safe and sanitary. Tenants must keep their dwelling in a reasonably safe and clean condition.

The unit does not have to be immaculate or free from clutter, it just must be free from safety hazards such as blocked fire escapes or sanitary hazards such as dog excrement.

Disposing of garbage. Tenants have the responsibility of not allowing garbage, debris, and other waste to accumulate. Trash should be disposed of regularly.

Maintaining plumbing fixtures. Tenants must do their best to keep all plumbing fixtures they use, such as the toilet or shower, in good condition.

Properly operating all plumbing and electric fixtures. Tenants must operate all electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, or other facilities according to their intended use.

Maintaining appliances supplied by the landlord. In the same vein, tenants are also responsible for taking proper care of stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers, or any other appliances that have been supplied by the landlord.

Not damaging the unit. It is the responsibility of the tenant to make sure that they, any of their guests, or anyone they allow onto the property do not damage the unit or any other part of the premises they have access to, including the common area, basement, or backyard. This includes deliberately damaging or destroying, damaging by neglect, or removing any part of the property.

Respecting other neighbors' peace and quiet. Tenants and anyone they allow onto the property have the obligation to conduct themselves in a way that will not be disruptive to their neighbors. This could include refraining from playing loud music or from allowing children to run and scream around the property.

Key Takeaways

  • Tenant obligations are the responsibilities a tenant has to their landlord.
  • Many of these responsibilities are spelled out in the terms of the lease, which the tenant is obligated to abide by.
  • A tenant is also required to maintain the rental, ensuring it is kept clean and free of garbage, waste, pests, and other hazards, and that the appliances within it are used and maintained properly.

Article Sources

  1. Legal Information Institute. "Landlord-Tenant Law." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.

  2. Uniform Law Commission. "Uniform Law Commission's Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act." Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.