When an appliance malfunctions in your rented property, it is essential to refer to your lease or rental agreement for guidance on repairs. During your move-in process, you conducted a walkthrough with the landlord. You tested all the appliances, such as the refrigerator, washer and dryer, and dishwasher. Although these appliances were somewhat old, they were functioning correctly then. However, three months into your lease, the refrigerator has broken down, and your food is spoiling. Consequently, you are left wondering who is responsible for fixing or replacing the faulty appliance – the landlord or the tenant?

Below are some reasons why it is likely that your landlord is obligated to handle the appliance repair, as well as reasons why they might not be.

Instances Where the Landlord Is Responsible for Repairing or Replacing Appliances

  • Lease or Rental Agreement Specifies Landlord’s Maintenance Responsibility: Review your lease or rental agreement meticulously to determine if it includes specific provisions regarding appliance maintenance. Many landlords explicitly prohibit tenants from attempting to fix major appliances independently and ensure repairs are their responsibility. If your lease or rental agreement states that the landlord is responsible for repairs, there is no room for debate.
  • Non-Functional Appliances Were Not Part of the Agreement: Generally, when landlords provide appliances with a rental, they are obligated to maintain them throughout the tenancy. If an appliance cannot be repaired, the landlord must replace it with a similar working model. This obligation stems from an implied promise within the lease or rental agreement that the landlord will continue providing the amenities initially present. As a tenant, you signed the lease based on the condition of the rental property during your visit. It is reasonable to expect these fixtures, appliances, and services to remain available as long as you fulfill your rent payments. A landlord who fails to deliver on the promises made during the rental agreement is not fulfilling their end of the bargain.
  • Broken Appliance as a Breach of the Warranty of Habitability: In addition to not meeting the promised conditions at the beginning of the tenancy, a landlord’s failure to repair or replace an appliance might also violate state or local laws. Most states mandate that landlords provide safe and habitable rentals, even if this requirement is not explicitly stated in the lease. This obligation is called the “warranty of habitability” or the “implied warranty of habitability.” For example, failing to provide a functional refrigerator or stove could be considered a breach of this warranty by your state or city. Certain states’ laws explicitly state that the landlord’s failure to maintain appliances present during move-in or promised in a written agreement constitutes a breach of the warranty of habitability. For instance, in Colorado, if a landlord neglects to maintain an appliance, the tenant may have the right to vacate the premises without penalty if the landlord fails to rectify the issue after receiving notice and an opportunity to resolve it.

What to Do When the Landlord Is Responsible

If your landlord is responsible for the repairs, notify them of the problem. Check your lease or rental agreement for any specific requirements regarding how to report such issues to your landlord. For instance, the lease may stipulate that you must contact a property manager regarding repair and maintenance concerns. Alongside adhering to any notice requirements outlined in the lease, you can also try contacting your landlord via phone or text to obtain a prompt response. Regardless, following up in writing and recording all your communications with the landlord is crucial.

Instances Where the Landlord Is Not Responsible for Fixing Appliances

Landlords generally do not bear the responsibility of repairing a broken appliance in a rental property under the following circumstances.

  • Tenant-Owned Appliances: If the appliance belongs to you as the tenant and you brought it into the rental property, you are responsible for its maintenance unless there is a written agreement with the landlord stating otherwise.
  • Tenant-Induced Damage: When a tenant’s actions result in damage or destruction of an appliance, the tenant is typically responsible for covering the cost of repairs or replacement. In most cases, landlords prefer tenants to notify them of any necessary repairs instead of hiring a repairperson or purchasing a new appliance themselves. The lease will state that the tenant must inform the landlord of required repairs, and the expenses incurred for tenant-caused issues will be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit. If the damage occurs during the tenancy, the tenant must replenish the funds in the security deposit. Suppose the cost of repair or replacement exceeds the security deposit. In that case, the tenant must reimburse the landlord for the additional expenses.
  • Lease or Rental Agreement Places Responsibility on the Tenant: While rare, certain leases or rental agreements may require tenants to perform all repairs and replace damaged items throughout the tenancy. This transfer of responsibility is most commonly observed in single-family home rentals, as some state laws allow repair responsibilities to be shifted only in such cases.

In summary, if you are still determining your responsibility for repairing or replacing an appliance in your rental property, carefully review your lease or rental agreement. If the document does not address the matter, it is likely the landlord’s responsibility.

Please note that we are not a legal company, and the information provided above is intended as general guidance to help you understand the factors to consider when determining responsibility for appliance repairs in a rental property. The guidance offered should not be considered legal advice, and it is essential to consult with a qualified legal professional or seek assistance from relevant authorities for specific legal inquiries or concerns. Laws and regulations regarding landlord-tenant relationships can vary based on jurisdiction, and individual circumstances may affect the applicability of certain principles discussed. Therefore, conducting thorough research and obtaining professional advice tailored to your unique situation is advisable.