How Quickly Must Landlords Make Repairs?

How Soon Is Now?

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One main responsibility of a landlord is to make repairs at the rental property. Some repairs are minor, such as replacing a cabinet hinge, and some repairs are major, such as replacing a furnace. Learn how quickly a landlord must make repairs once he or she is notified of the problem.

What Repairs Is a Landlord Responsible For?

A landlord owns the rental property and is therefore responsible for making all repairs to the rental property. This includes issues in common areas, exterior problems, and issues inside the tenant’s apartment. A landlord may be responsible for repairing issues related to: 

  • Hot and Cold Running Water
  • Weatherproofing Windows, Doors and Roofs
  • Locks on Windows and Doors
  • Plumbing Issues
  • Electrical Issues
  • Heating or Cooling Issues
  • Structural Issues
  • Sanitary Conditions
  • Pest Control
  • Lead Paint
  • Mold
  • Building and Safety Codes
  • Property Inspections

Tenant Written Notification

In order for a landlord to make a repair, the landlord must be made aware that a repair is necessary. Therefore, it is the tenant’s obligation to notify the landlord that there is a problem in the rental that requires repair.

The tenant should make this repair request in writing. This will serve as proof that the tenant requested the repair and the date the repair was requested.

Reasonable Time for Non-Emergency Repairs

It is generally considered a reasonable amount of time for a landlord to address repairs within 30 days of being notified of the issue. For example, both California landlord tenant law and Massachusetts sanitary code allow landlords 30 days to fix issues that do not endanger a tenant’s health or safety.

Every state does have different laws. It is your responsibility to understand if there are different requirements for what a reasonable amount of time is in the state where your rental property is located. 

Reasonable Time for Emergency Repairs

Landlords generally have a much shorter timeline to complete repairs for issues that are considered emergencies. Emergency repairs are those that pose a threat to the immediate health or safety of the tenant, for example:

  • No heat in the winter
  • No running water
  • No functioning toilet

Again, state laws vary widely, so check your state’s landlord tenant law for specifics. For emergency repairs, a reasonable amount of time to address the repair could vary between immediately to seven days. This includes time for a landlord to wait for a public utility or outside contractor to perform the repair. For example, if a falling tree damaged electrical lines, the landlord would first have to hire a tree removal company to get rid of the tree and then contact the public utility to restore the electricity.

In Massachusetts, for example, landlords only have 24 hours to complete repairs such as no heat or a non-functioning lock on an entry door. Massachusetts landlords are granted five days to fix issues such as installing a handrail on a staircase or a pest infestation.

If Tenant Files Complaint With Building or Health and Safety Department

If a landlord has not responded to a tenant’s repair request, the tenant may file a complaint with the building or health department. In these cases, an inspector would visit the property to determine if there is a building or safety violation. 

If an issue is found, the inspector will serve the landlord with a violation notice, giving the landlord a certain amount of time to fix the problem. If the landlord does not fix the issue within the given amount of time, the landlord could be fined.

Reasons a Landlord Can Delay or Refuse Repairs

Not every condition is the responsibility of the landlord to repair.

  • Tenant caused damage through neglect or abuse: Under landlord tenant law, tenants must properly use all fixtures and must not purposefully or neglectfully damage or destroy any part of the rental unit or property. If a repair is necessary because of a tenant’s abuse or neglect, it is not the landlord’s financial responsibility to fix it.
  • Tenant’s poor sanitary conditions caused the issue: Tenants have a responsibility to keep their units clean. If there is a pest infestation at the rental property due to a tenant’s unsanitary living conditions, it is not the landlords responsibility to pay for extermination.
  • Improvement not a repair: Landlords are responsible for making repairs to the rental, not improvements. A tenant wanting a higher end refrigerator or upgraded countertop is a want, not a need, and a landlord has no responsibility to pay for this expense if the previous item is in good, usable condition.

How to Maintain Tenant Satisfaction During Repair Process

Repairs can be a source of conflict between landlord and tenant if they are not addressed in a timely matter. Proper communication plays a huge part in keeping a tenant happy during the repair process. 

The landlord needs to give the tenant advance notice, usually between 24 and 48 hours, before entering the apartment for a repair. You have to show up when you say you are going to and if you run into issues or delays, be upfront and let the tenant know about it in advance.

Article Sources

  1. California Department of Housing and Community Development. "California Tenants: A Guide to Residential Tenants and Landlords Rights and Responsibilities," Page 41. Accessed Nov. 26, 2019.

  2. MassLegalHelp. "Housing Code: Representing Yourself in an Eviction Case," Booklet 2, Page 447. Accessed Nov. 26, 2019.