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Rental Maintenance: Tips for Keeping Your House in Top Condition

by Point2 Editorial Staff
5 min. read

One of the greatest advantages of renting rather than buying a house is the lighter burden of responsibility that tenants can enjoy. This is especially apparent when it comes to home maintenance. As a tenant, if something goes wrong, it’s typically down to the landlord to fix it. However, it’s not always so black and white. Keeping on top of maintaining your home, whether you rent or own it, generally improves your quality of life. And, sometimes, tenants are obliged to carry out specific tasks.

Knowing where to draw the line can be tricky. In this guide, we’ll look at what responsibilities your landlord has before running through a rental maintenance checklist for tenants.

Who Is Responsible for Maintaining a Rental House?

In almost all parts of Canada and the U.S., the landlord is responsible for maintaining a habitable living area. This essentially means that they must provide their tenants with access to the following:

  • A structurally sound unit: structural elements such as the roof, walls, floors, stairways and ceilings must be kept intact and safe.
  • Running water: all plumbing and sanitary systems are to be kept functioning as normal at all times, with an adequate supply of hot and cold water.
  • Heating: an adequate heating system must be in place to ensure the unit is warm enough, and HVAC systems must be regularly maintained and kept in safe working order.
  • Electricity: Electrical systems must be free from danger and up to code at all times.
  • An environment free from infestation: pests ranging from insects to rodents to larger vermin must be exterminated if they pose a risk to the tenant and the structural integrity of the rental home.
  • A home free from environmental hazards: hazardous materials, such as asbestos and lead-based paint, must be managed to ensure they don’t pose a risk to the tenants.
  • A safe and secure environment: the home must be secured against the threat of criminal intrusions.

In almost all locations, these are rights that all tenants have, and they cannot be waived. However, double-check the exact legislation in your area, as slight differences may exist.

What Maintenance Responsibilities Do Tenants Have?

At first glance, the landlord should take care of all the maintenance. However, in many areas, tenants are required by law to keep on top of the following:

  • Keep the rental unit clean and safe.
  • Use appliances, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems in the way they were designed.
  • Repair anything you damage.
  • Clean plumbing fixtures as required — for example, if the toilet becomes blocked after you flush a diaper, you must fix it.
  • Remove garbage and any other waste materials safely and cleanly.
  • Notify the landlord of any defects or dangerous issues with the property — for example, leaking gutters or a sagging roof.

House Rental Maintenance Checklist for Tenants

Staying on top of the following tasks will not only ensure that you comply with your obligations but will also improve your quality of life while living in a rental home.

Remember that with most of these checks, it’s still up to the landlord to remedy any issues. But, by checking as a tenant, you can notify them of any issues you find before they become major problems. Not only will that often save the landlord some cash, but it will also ensure that your living conditions remain comfortable.

1. Check HVAC Filters Seasonally

The landlord usually handles regular HVAC servicing, but you can also check the filters yourself. The filters often need a quick clean to ensure the entire system runs efficiently. The best times to check are before summer and winter.

2. Check Plumbing for Leaks

Regularly checking your pipes and faucets for leaks can help keep your home in good condition. A small, unnoticed leak can soon cause problems with dampness and mold, so check each month to stay on top of things.

3. Clean Regularly

Keeping the home clean is perhaps the most significant responsibility for any tenant. A clean house is far more comfortable to live in and is much less likely to develop problems with mold and pests. The biggest problem areas tend to be the kitchen and bathroom, but if you spend a few minutes cleaning after each use, it’s quick and easy to keep everything in order.

4. Yard, Landscaping and Curb Appeal

Maintaining a tidy yard is usually down to the tenant, although the landlord typically takes care of bigger tasks, such as pruning trees and major landscaping jobs. So, keep on top of watering the plants, trimming the grass, and ensuring any patios and decks are clean.

5. Replace Light Bulbs

If a light bulb blows, tenants are usually expected to replace them with an identical model.

6. Repair Damage That You’ve Caused

If you block the toilet, damage an appliance, break a window or tear the carpet, it’ll be down to you to fix it. Just be sure to contact your landlord first to make sure they’re aware of the issue.

7. Check for Pests

Regularly checking for pests is an excellent way of preventing an infestation. Look for signs of rodent damage, such as chewed cables, as well as insect damage, such as termite mounds and woodworm holes. If you find any signs, contact your landlord and have them arrange an exterminator.

8. Inspect Gutters and Drains Seasonally

Leaky gutters and blocked drains can cause many problems with your house, from enabling mold to grow to weakening the foundations. So, be sure to check them each season, particularly after fall, to ensure they’re not blocked.

9. Check Doors and Windows for Drafts

Drafty doors and windows will cause your energy bills to rocket in winter, so check before the cold weather sets in. If a fix is required, contact your landlord.

10. Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It’s essential to test that any smoke and carbon monoxide detectors you have installed in your rental house work. Monthly testing will let you know that the batteries haven’t run down, keeping you and your family safe in case of disaster.

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