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Basic Rental Property Maintenance: Who Does What?

Waukesha Tenant Replacing a Battery in the Smoke DetectorAs a Waukesha property owner, it is highly crucial to clearly distinguish who is responsible for what on the issue of basic rental property maintenance. To keep your rental property in appropriate condition and profitable, it’s imperative to have a proactive property maintenance system in place. This maintenance may be implemented by you or by a service technician. Having said that, there are a few minor and small maintenance tasks that you can and should expect your tenant to bring about. Here are a handful of the most common rental property maintenance tasks and who is oftentimes responsible for each one:

Clogged toilets. If a toilet becomes clogged, it is customarily the tenant’s responsibility to clear the blockage. On the other hand, there may be exceptions, for example, if the blockage is caused by plumbing issues unrelated to the tenant’s use. If this should happen, you would possibly need to handle the repairs yourself or call a professional.

Broken windows. If a window is broken, it is quite possibly either the landlord’s or the tenant’s responsibility to repair or replace the window. This is because the responsibility for window replacement lies with the actual reason for the breakage. If the window was broken due to tenant negligence, they should pay to replace it. On the contrary, if a window is damaged due to severe weather or other circumstances out of a tenant’s control, the property owner is responsible for rehabilitating it. Do not forget that this may be a security issue; mitigation is the key here.

Lightbulbs. Most commonly, tenants are responsible for replacing lightbulbs in their rental homes. This is because various light fixtures are considered part of the tenant’s living space.

Carpeting and flooring. When it comes to the cleanliness of flooring, this would be a tenant’s responsibility.  If the flooring gets damaged or eventually worn out, then the responsibility often falls to the Waukesha property manager. This is because these are facets of the property that see a lot of wear and tear over time. In some instances, however, tenants may be responsible for damage to carpeting or flooring. As a consequence, the tenant would need to pay for the repairs.

Batteries in smoke and CO detectors. Smoke and CO detectors are pivotal for keeping a rental property safe. The batteries in these devices should be regularly tested and replaced when necessary. In several instances, state law determines whether it is the landlord’s or the tenant’s responsibility to replace the batteries. But really, it doesn’t matter with whom the responsibility lies, as a landlord, you should be conscientiously checking and replacing batteries two times per year.

Air filters.  Air filters help keep the air in a rental property clean and free of pollutants. Mainly, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to replace the air filters. Still, plenty of properties have air filter systems that tenants cannot speedily or easily access and change themselves. If that was true in your rental property, it is your responsibility to determine that your air filters are changed often.

When assigning maintenance tasks to your tenants, it’s critically integral to include clear language detailing all responsibilities in your lease. This will help to avoid any misunderstandings or disagreements down the road. By being aware of who is responsible for what on the issue of rental property maintenance, you can keep your property in the best ideal condition and steer clear of any potential legal problems.


Rental property maintenance can be painstaking and admittedly time-consuming, particularly if you must constantly have to check and find out whether your tenant is fulfilling their responsibilities. But Real Property Management Greater Milwaukee can help. We are experts in single-family rental property management, and we can practically take care of all maintenance for you. Contact us online to learn more about our quality services.

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