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Landlord Vs. Tenant: Who Is Responsible for What?

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As a tenant, you might assume that it’s smooth sailing 100% of the time. After all, when something breaks or goes wrong, you simply call your landlord, and they have it taken care of. Right?

While it is true that in most cases, renting is hassle-free, and tenants are off the hook for major maintenance tasks and repairs, there are a few responsibilities that often do fall specifically to tenants. 

Knowing what tasks are for you and which ones to call your landlord on can help save you a lot of time and stress. While your lease will almost certainly outline your duties as a tenant, here’s a breakdown of some of the more common areas of confusion. Read on to see who is usually responsible for what. Remember, if you’re in doubt, be sure to consult your lease.

See: Tips for Making Your Rental a Home.

Tenant Responsibilities 

As a tenant, you are responsible for your own share of responsibilities when it comes to the upkeep of the property. While it might not involve big-ticket items, there are still important areas that you need to keep in mind when it comes to your responsibilities for the property. Here are some of the most common areas that you will be responsible for when it comes to renting. 

  • Unit Upkeep 

Obviously, you will be responsible for keeping up with the general upkeep of your unit. This means keeping the place clean and tidy, free from trash and dirt build-up, and preventing mold from growing. While your landlord most likely won’t be grading your cleanliness, they will expect it to stay in a clean and habitable state while you are there. These basic tasks include things such as sweeping, mopping, dusting, and even changing light bulbs and filters. Most contracts will outline the state that the property needs to be left in upon moving out, but in many cases, you are required to leave the unit in the same state as you found it. 

Looking for some ideas for unit upkeep? Check out: Spring Cleaning 101 - How to Spruce Up Your Rental, for some great tips.

  • Minimize Damage 

You are also responsible for keeping damages to a minimum as well. In many cases, you will be responsible for the costs that are involved with any damages that you cause. While normal wear and tear are generally expected, excessive damage, regardless of if it was caused by you, friends or pets, will need to be dealt with. As a tenant, you should always remember that while the property is your home, it’s your landlord’s property, and any changes you make should be cleared by your landlord first. 

  • Report Issues

Another one of your responsibilities as a tenant is to report any damage or maintenance issues that arise. This means that if you spot a broken pipe, you should report it to your landlord immediately. Don’t wait for them to discover the issues, report it immediately, especially if the issue is something that is going to get worse over time. If you don’t report it, your landlord won’t know there is an issue and won’t be able to make the repairs in a timely fashion. 

  • Pets

If your landlord allows pets, then it is your responsibility to take care of them and clean up after them. There is most likely going to be a clause in your rental agreement, outlining what is expected of you when you have a pet on the premises. Some of those expectations will probably include cleaning up after your pet, proper disposal of their waste, where you can and can’t let them go, keeping their noise level managed, vaccine requirements, potty training, and cleanliness. Breaking your part of the agreement could result in an extra fee, or in some cases, even eviction. Be sure to follow the rules set in place by your landlord for having a pet.

Hoping to bring a pet into your home? Consider reading: Should You Ask Your Landlord for a Pet? for some important details. 

  • Trash

Another responsibility of being a tenant is taking proper care of your garbage. This means taking the garbage out of the house and not letting it pile up as well as putting it outside at the designated spot for garbage. Garbage that piles up can attract bugs and pests, which can be damaging to the property.

  • Damage by Guests

Finally, it is your responsibility as a tenant to take care of your unit. This means that if you have friends or guests over, you are responsible for the damages they cause. 

Landlord Responsibilities 

A landlord is not exempt from responsibilities. Their responsibilities are different, but they are still important. A landlord is responsible for keeping the property in habitable condition. In most cases, a landlord is responsible for upkeep and maintenance on the exterior and repairs on the inside. 

  • Pest Control 

A landlord is responsible for resolving any issues involving pests. If pests are found on the premises, alert your landlord so they can get on top of the issue and conduct some preventative maintenance to help stay on top of the issue before it gets out of control. When pests are left uncontrolled, they can take over and cause extensive damage to the property. As a tenant, it’s important to do your part in helping to limit the number of pests on the premises by keeping your unit clean and trash to a minimum.

  • Maintenance Between Tenants 

When one tenant moves out, and before another moves in, there is generally some deep cleaning and upkeep that needs to be done. This is generally the landlord’s responsibility. As a tenant, however, it is important that you leave the property in the condition that you found it when you first moved in, meaning any major changes you made need to be undone, and any damages you caused need to be addressed or else you could risk losing your security deposit. 

  • Major Repairs and Maintenance 

A landlord’s duties and responsibilities include making major repairs and keeping up with the maintenance on the property. Some areas that often require repairs and maintenance can be: 

  • Roof and Gutters 
  • Windows and Siding 
  • Plumbing 
  • Heating and Cooling Systems 

Unless otherwise noted, your landlord is generally responsible for the upkeep and repairs of anything related to the house itself. 

  • Heating and Cooling 

A landlord is responsible for providing a habitable place of dwelling, and as such, the heating and cooling systems are their responsibility. Landlords are also responsible for providing hot and cold water. If something goes wrong with these systems, it’s your landlord’s responsibility to get them back in working order. Many cities have specific time frames for how long these systems can be done before the repairs are made. They are also responsible for winterizing the pipes and ensuring that proper maintenance is done on the furnace or heating system before winter to help prevent any major issues from occurring. 

  • Safety Protocols 

The safety and security of a building are the landlord’s responsibility. This includes things such as ensuring that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are installed in every unit, locks are replaced upon the arrival of a new tenant, and adequate lighting is installed outside and in the common areas. 

  • Common Areas 

In shared buildings, such as a duplex or apartment buildings, the upkeep of common areas falls to the landlord. This includes things such as a shared laundry room and hallways. However, if you noticed something that needs to be taken care of, be sure to alert your landlord and don’t leave it until they find it. 


When it comes to the landlord’s responsibilities, there are certain expectations that need to be kept in mind and followed. 

  • Repairs Completed in a Timely Fashion - First of all, it’s important that a landlord performs repairs in a timely fashion. 

  • Adequate Notice Given to Tenants - Secondly, it is important that your landlord gives notice (if possible) of when they plan to be in your unit or plan to have someone else in there doing repairs. While this isn’t always possible in emergency situations, if possible, your landlord should try to give you notice before entering the premises. In many states, the landlord is required to give at least 24 or 48 hours’ notice, however, if it is an emergency situation, a landlord doesn’t have to give any notice. 

Negotiable Areas 

Finally, there are also some areas of negotiation. These are areas that aren’t always cut and dry responsibilities of landlords or tenants, in many cases, these responsibilities are outlined in the lease as to who is responsible for what. Some of these areas are: 

  • Landscaping

Lawn care and landscaping is often an area that is left negotiable between landlord and tenant. Most times, the lawn care is left to the tenants, however, in some cases, the landlord or property manager will handle the lawn. In other cases, there is a groundskeeper who handles the upkeep of the lawn and landscaping. It is important to disclose who is in charge of this area so that everyone knows what is expected of them and there is no confusion. 

  • Snow Removal 

Another area that isn’t always cut and dry is the removal of snow. This is an especially important aspect to consider if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow. The removal of snow is not automatically the landlord’s responsibility, although in some states, it’s required for landlords to have the proper equipment available for tenants to use to remove snow and ice. In some states, landlords must reimburse tenants for time spent on snow removal or yard maintenance.

  • Utilities 

This is another area that could go either way. If utilities aren’t included in the lease, it needs to be written and clear what utilities are the tenant’s responsibility. Some leases include the cost of utilities, so it’s important to clarify what is a tenant’s responsibility and what is up to the landlord. Knowing who is responsible for the utilities should be decided upon before a lease is signed and before you move into your new place. If the utilities are your responsibility, then you should take steps to have things transferred into your name before moving in. 

  • Major Appliances 

Finally, many rental units come with major appliances such as a washer, dryer, stove, and refrigerator. Usually, the landlord will be responsible for keeping them in good working order. It’s also important to document what condition the appliances were in when the tenants moved in and what condition they are expected to be in once they leave. 

When it comes to the responsibilities of landlords and tenants, there is often confusion as to who is responsible for what. Before you sign the lease, make sure you are aware of what your responsibilities are and what your landlord is responsible for. Outlining these details before a lease is signed can help ensure that both you and your landlord are on the same page and any confusion is avoided. Finally, if you’re not sure what your responsibilities are, it’s always a good idea to check your lease. When in doubt, you can always check with your landlord or property manager for clarification.

Knowing what your responsibility as a tenant is, isn’t that complex after all. Knowing your duties as a landlord is something your landlord will appreciate. Consider checking out: 10 Things Landlords Wish Their Tenants Knew.

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