There are many advantages of renting a home but one of the disadvantages is having to rely on your landlord for repairs. Even an excellent landlord may take a while to carry out a repair on something you would fix right away. So I thought it would be useful to take a look at how long a landlord has to repair an item in your home.
How Long Does A Landlord Have To Fix Something Broken? Timelines for repairs vary from state to state, but a landlord should make repairs “as soon as reasonably possible.” That works out at three days to fix an item that affects the habitability of the home eg the heating or hot water. For other repairs, a landlord has 30 days to fix something that has broken.
How Long Does A Landlord Have To Fix Something That Is Broken?
How long your landlord has to make repairs to their property depends on two factors:
- What element of the rental home that needs repair.
- The rules and regulations in the state, or sometimes the city, in which you live.
What Element Of The Property Needs Repair?
In the majority of the country, the timelines for repair are split between essential and non-essential repairs. Essential repairs are those which affect the “habitability” of a home. Those issues which contravene the “implied warranty of habitability” usually have to be repaired within three days, although this does vary from state to state.
So, what exactly is the implied warranty of habitability?
The Warranty Of Habitability
When you move into a rental home you have the protection of what is called, in law, the Implied Warranty Of Habitability. Basically, this means that the landlord is taking your rent and in return is providing you with a home in which it is suitable for a person to live. The specifics of what is covered by the Implied Warranty of Habitability, vary – yes you guessed it – from state to state. However, to give you an idea of the kind of items you can expect to be covered under an Implied Warranty of Habitability here’s a rough list.
Generally, a tenant can expect to have, either in their unit or ready access to:
- Drinkable water
- Hot water
- Working electricity
- A Smoke Detector
- A working bathroom and toilet
Note that these do not have to be available in the rental home itself, but a tenant must have easy, unrestricted access to these facilities. So, if a rental unit does not have a bathroom and toilet within the home but does have a shared bathroom for two tenants on the same floor this would be acceptable. However, if one rental did not have water and they were expected to share a tap in the kitchen of another unit this would not be OK as the access to the water would be dependant on the other tenant allowing the first tenant into their home.
Waiving Your Rights To The Implied Warranty Of Habitability
The Implied Warranty of Habitability is set in law for all residential leases and the right to a habitable home cannot be waived. If a lease includes a clause by which the tenant waives this right, the lease can and will be declared void by a court and the tenant will no be held to the contract.
Essential Repair Timelines Around The Country
You would be forgiven for imagining that essential repairs that affect the Implied Warranty of Habitability would need to be carried out immediately, no matter what area of the country you live, but you’d be wrong. How long a landlord has to fix something broken, even is it impacts the habitability of the home still varies from state-to-state.
- California: In the guide for residential tenants and landlords published by the Government of California, there are no fixed timelines for a landlord to make repairs. However, it does give an example of a broken furnace and that two days would be a reasonable time, assuming there was a repair person available.
- Oklahoma: The state statutes do not give a specific timeline for essential repairs but instead states that “ the landlord willfully or negligently fails to supply heat, running water, hot water, electric, gas or another essential service, the tenant may give written notice to the landlord specifying the breach and thereafter may:
- Upon written notice, immediately terminate the rental agreement; or
- Procure reasonable amounts of heat, hot water, running water, electric, gas or another essential service during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance and deduct their actual and reasonable cost from the rent; or
- Recover damages based upon the diminution of the fair rental value of the dwelling unit; or
- Upon written notice, procure reasonable substitute housing during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance, in which case the tenant is excused from paying rent for the period of the landlord’s noncompliance.
Other Essential Repair Considerations
If there are circumstances that are beyond the control of the landlord, this may impact how long they have to fix something broken.
For example, if there is a storm and powerlines are down, the landlord will not have any control over how fast the power company restores the electricity supply to your home. In this case, if the property is without power for four days the landlord can’t be held responsible and the remedies available to tenants when a landlord doesn’t make repairs are not applicable.
The same goes for situations where the landlord has taken steps to make repairs but for reasons outside of their control, those repairs are taking longer than the allowed time period. An example of this would be where a furnace breaks down and a home is without heat. The landlord calls a repair person who says they have to order a part and it will take a week to arrive. The landlord then supplies the tenant with an alternative form of heat while the repair takes place. This would be considered reasonable.
Any repairs which do not affect the Implied Warranty Of Habitability are considered non-essential. Although again, the definition of this varies around the country, a time period of 30 days seems to be the average.
So, what would be considered a non-essential repair? Examples include:
- A dishwasher that has stopped working – as long as there is no flooding involved.
- A curtain rail that has come away from the wall.
- Bathroom tiles that have become detached.
- An internal door that will not stay closed.
- A broken hinge on a cabinet door
The best thing for you to do if you want to know how long a landlord has to fix something broken is to find out what the law says in the state in which the rental is located. This can be an important point if your landlord lives in, or the rental management company is located in a different state to your home. The laws in the state of the property are the ones that apply and not the laws in the state where the landlord is located.
Notifying Your Landlord That Something Is Broken
As soon as you become aware of an issue it is important to alert your landlord that something is broken. You can do this by telephone but if this is the case you should also follow-up through email or in another form of writing so you have proof of the date you made the report.
A Landlord Can Refuse Repairs
A landlord can refuse to fix something that is broken if the repair is needed as a result of:
- Actions taken by the tenant. For example, if the tenant has children who have jumped off of the bed and landed against the wall, making a hole in the drywall, this must be fixed by the tenant and not the landlord.
- Neglect by the tenant. For example, if the tenant installs their own washing machine, that machine leaks, the tenant doesn’t notice or deal with it, and the leak damages the floor – this is the responsibility of the tenant.
- Unsanitary tenants. Tenants who have, for example, allowed garbage to build up and as a result, there is a rodent infestation, the landlord is not financially responsible for the pest control nor the repair of any damage caused by the rodents.
- It is not a repair. If a tenant is asking for something that is an improvement to the property and not a repair, then the landlord does not have to make the “fix.” An example of this would be an older carpet. If the carpet is clean, safe, and usable but the tenant would like a newer one, this is an improvement and not a repair and as such the landlord is not responsible.
- Very minor issues. For example, a crack in a bathroom tile that is not affecting the tenant in any way other than aesthetics would not require a repair by the landlord.
What Can You Do If Your Landlord Does Not Make Repairs?
If your landlord either refuses to fix something that is broken or just does not get back to you there are remedies available to you.
What follows is a general overview of the remedies available to a tenant when the landlord has not fixed something that is broken. They are not the same in every state so it is important to contact a legal professional who is familiar with tenancy law in your state before taking any of these steps.
In some states, a tenant can withhold some, or all of their rent until the required repairs are made. This can be done only after the tenant has notified the landlord of the problem and the prescribed maximum time period has passed. The amount of rent withheld should be reasonable in relation to the repair that is needed.
Repair and deduct
Some states have what they call a repair and deduct which allows a tenant to make the repair, or employ someone to make the repair, and deduct the cost from their rent.
Leave The Rental
Once a tenant has made a report of repairs need and the time period for landlord action has passed, the landlord has broken the lease and as such the tenant is no longer required to observe the terms of the lease. Consequently, at this stage, the tenant can leave the property if they wish.
How long a landlord has to repair something that is broken depends on where in the country you are and whether the problem affects the livability of the home. Generally speaking, items that affect the Implied Warranty of Habitability, for example, a broken furnace, must be repaired within 24-72 hours. Other, less serious repairs have a longer timeline, usually 30 days.
Helpful Information From Real Estate Professionals
Pricing in real estate has little to do with what you paid for the property, or how much you spent improving it. Real estate values and rents are based on one thing: what buyers and renters perceive the value to be. Sometimes small changes will drastically impact the property’s functionality, create an image of luxury or simply make the property an easier place to live. Spark Rental
In most states, your rental must have safe, working, heating available and a landlord is only allowed to cut off your heat to make repairs. Who pays for the heat, cost of repairs, what is included in that payment, and how that payment is made, all depends on the terms of your lease.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.