You Versus the Landlord: Who’s Responsible for What?
Whether you’re moving into a student apartment for the first time or not, the ever-present question of responsibility looms overheard—who is responsible: you or the landlord? And the answer is never quite as simple as you might want to think.
Before you fill out the soon-to-be-lost-in-a-black-abyss-and-reported-as-never-received request for maintenance, take a moment to review these simple tips on what your responsibility is and what is not.
Read your lease
The bottom line is that your lease should cover everything, or nearly everything that is your responsibility and the landlord’s responsibility in clear terms. Your lease typically requires you to notify the landlord immediately of major needs—your refrigerator stops working, the pipes burst and flood your apartment, etc. You are responsible, of course, for any damage you cause—leave a cigarette on the floor and it burns through the carpet, you rough house with friends and go through a wall, etc.
Make sure your landlord understands the reasonable expectations
If you are living in an apartment with all 60-watt light bulbs, it is reasonable for the landlord to expect you to change them yourself. However, if your apartment is furnished with hard-to-change, extraordinarily expensive or difficult-to-find lighting (certain fluorescent lights and bathroom lights), the landlord should be willing to at the very least locate and change these lights for you, if not for free, then at cost. It is also your landlord’s responsibility to manage your requests in a timely fashion—a major incident should see response within 24 hours, a minor request (stuck cabinet) within 2-3 days.
Know your rights and who to complain to
Not everyone will be lucky enough to move into an apartment with a stellar staff or maintenance team who responds professionally and quickly. You should know that, according to the terms of your lease, you have the right to complain to the Health Department, the local housing division and every other form of government that will listen to you in order to keep your landlord in line.
You should be reasonable as well
Whenever you can fix something yourself without incurring costs, you should do it, but make sure to alert your landlord of your intentions first (remember, you break it, you buy it) to ensure they approve and that you won’t be held liable if something happens.
Getting along with the landlord is as important as getting with the neighbors. But even so, it is important that you make sure the landlord and the apartment management staff are meeting your needs as they are supposed to in order to ensure a happy beginning, middle and end to your tenure in your apartment.