Real Estate Terms

Tenant vs Landlord Responsibility

In a lease agreement, the landlord and tenant each have a share of responsibilities they must uphold.

Real estate professionals should know the differences between tenant vs landlord responsibilities. It would be best to learn from rental real estate connoisseurs to get the most accurate information possible. That’s why we’re here to tell you everything there is to know about landlord-tenant laws.  

In this post, we’ll explain the responsibilities of tenants vs landlords, give helpful examples, and discuss what happens when one party shirks their duties. Keep reading for a complete guide to tenant vs landlord responsibilities!

Tenant Responsibilities vs Landlord Responsibilities

In any lease agreement, the landlord and tenant each have specific responsibilities they must fulfill. While responsibilities can vary depending on local laws and lease agreement terms, there are a few constants regarding tenant vs landlord duties.

But before we get into the responsibilities between landlords and tenants, let’s discuss the role of landlord-tenant laws in rental real estate.

What Are Landlord-Tenant Laws?

Landlord-tenant laws explain landlords’ and tenants’ rights and obligations regarding a rental property. Per the lease agreement, each party should understand how renting works and know their local laws.

For example, tenant’s rights vary from state to state. According to Avail, California is a tenant-friendly state, while Virginia is a landlord-friendly state. A tenant-friendly state means renters have fewer restrictions and responsibilities, while a landlord-friendly state has laws and practices that benefit property owners.

However, in most states, tenant and landlord responsibilities are relatively predictable and are mostly the same.

What Is the Tenant’s Responsibility?

Tenant responsibilities include general property maintenance, waste management, and pet clean-up. But let’s take a closer look into what each of these responsibilities means.

Maintenance Responsibilities

Tenants are responsible for maintaining the general upkeep of a rental property. If maintenance issues pop up, it is the tenant’s responsibility to file maintenance requests. It is not the landlord’s fault if the tenant fails to report issues.

However, it’s important to note that the tenant should only ask the landlord for help with major repairs. Examples of major repairs include a leaky roof or a septic system breakdown.

The tenant is responsible for minor repairs to the rental property, such as changing light bulbs or cleaning a dirty bathroom.

Excessive Property Damage

A tenant is responsible for property damage only when it exceeds normal wear and tear. For example, if a tenant burns or stains the carpet of their rental property, it is their responsibility to pay for the damage.

In many cases, the landlord will not return their security deposit to cover the property damage costs.

Waste Management

Waste management is generally part of the tenant’s responsibilities. If a tenant lets garbage pile up, the rental unit may attract bugs and become inhabitable. Unsanitary conditions could lead to property damage that the tenant would be responsible for paying.


If the lease agreement allows tenants to bring pets into the property, the tenant is responsible for any damage caused by the pet. For example, if a pet scratches the doors or tears up the carpet, the tenant will have to pay the repair costs.

Snow Removal (In Single-Family Properties)

When Jack Frost comes to town, tenants who live in single-family properties must grab their shovels and get to work. The tenant is responsible for removing snow from the property and keeping their outside area safe.

What Is the Landlord’s Responsibility?

The landlord is responsible for property maintenance, tenant safety, toxin management, and more. Let’s discuss all the responsibilities landlords have in further detail.

Maintenance Responsibilities

First and foremost, it is the landlord’s responsibility to provide tenants with a healthy living environment. If a property needs major repairs, the landlord must respond to repair requests and fix the problem.

Examples of major repairs that fall under the landlord’s responsibility include the following:

  • Structural problems
  • Leaky roof
  • Water heater damage
  • Water damage
  • Major plumbing issues
  • Septic system breakdowns
  • Electrical problems

Safety Features

The landlord is also responsible for installing safety features to keep the rental unit safe. Safety equipment includes fire alarms, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors.

Heating and Cooling Systems

It is the landlord’s duty to provide rental units with heating and cooling systems. This includes installing air conditioning and a furnace to keep the property safe and comfortable.

Landlords are also responsible for ensuring tenants have hot and cold water. For example, if the water heater is not working, the landlord must dish out the money to fix it.  

Management of Toxins

It’s also the landlord’s job to eradicate toxins within a rental property. Examples of toxins include mold, asbestos, and lead paint dust.

To keep tenants safe from these toxins, landlords should ensure their rental units have adequate ventilation. They can also add air-purifying systems to the property, though the tenant is usually responsible for replacing the air filters.

Pest Control

The landlord is also responsible for pest control in the case of an infestation. This means that when the bed bugs come to bite, it will be the landlord who foots the bill. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if unsanitary tenants have caused the pest problem.

Common Areas

The landlord must maintain all common areas in a rental property. For example, property owners who own apartment buildings must keep the following areas up to local building codes:

  • Hallways
  • Lobbies
  • Elevators and stairs
  • Communal kitchens
  • Swimming pools
  • Gyms
  • Parks
  • Laundry rooms

Snow Removal (In Multi-Family Properties)

Landlords who rent out multi-family properties are responsible for snow removal. In most cases, the landlord pays a company to remove snow from multi-family units.

What Can You Negotiate In a Lease Agreement?

Not everything is black and white regarding tenant responsibilities vs landlord responsibilities. In many cases, the property owner and tenant can negotiate the terms of a lease.

Let’s discuss some responsibilities landlords and tenants can haggle over in their rental agreement.


Before a tenant signs a lease, they should understand which utilities they are responsible for paying. In some cases, tenants can negotiate paying lower costs for electricity, gas, water, etc.


Most rental homes come with major appliances such as a washer, dryer, refrigerator, and stove. The landlord is usually responsible for repairing these appliances if they break, but not always. The tenant should verify this information with the landlord before signing the lease agreement.


Tenants may also be able to negotiate who is responsible for landscaping and lawn care. While the renter usually has to maintain the landscape, there are cases where the property owner hires a groundskeeper instead.

What Happens If a Landlord Ignores Repair Requests?

Tenants have the right to live in a safe and inhabitable environment, so it can be disheartening when a landlord refuses to fulfill their responsibilities.

However, tenants are not entirely helpless in this situation; they can take a few steps to deal with the issue. Let’s discuss some of the options tenants have below!

Report the Violation to a Housing Inspector

If the landlord has violated housing laws, the tenant can report the violation to local housing inspectors. The inspector will look into the issue and give the landlord a notice of breach and a deadline for making necessary repairs.

Withhold Rent Payments

If a tenant has withheld their end of the deal, but the landlord has not, there are some cases where they can stop paying rent. This practice is known as rent withholding.

Many states allow rent withholding but have specific requirements on how to do it. For example, local laws may require that tenants give landlords a particular time frame to fix the problem before withholding rent.

Use the “Repair-and-Deduct” Method

Some states and cities allow tenants to use the repair-and-deduct option. This is when tenants pay for repairs but deduct the costs from their rent. For example, if you spend $2,000 for monthly rent but the repairs cost $800, you would only pay your landlord $1,200 that month.

Again, the repair-and-deduct method is only allowed in some states, so tenants must be familiar with local laws before trying this option.

File a Lawsuit

In most states, tenants can sue their landlord if the property is uninhabitable. The tenant will have to prove that the landlord neglected their responsibilities and that the property is not worth the amount they are paying. The court may order the property owner to pay the tenant back for losses and make the necessary repairs.

Move Out of the Property

If the property is unsafe, the tenant may move out despite their lease not being up. This option only works if there is a significant problem with the property; otherwise, a tenant may still have to pay the remaining rent.

It’s also vital for tenants to check their state laws, as they may be responsible for the following before moving out:

  • Giving their landlord a time frame to fix the issue
  • Providing their landlord a notice
  • Contacting building inspectors first

What Happens If a Tenant Violates Lease Terms?

If tenants refuse to fulfill their responsibilities, the landlord may have to take action against them. Let’s jump into some of the options property owners have below!

Document Any Property Damage

First, the landlord should document any property damage inflicted by the tenant. This documentation will help prove that the tenant has not maintained the property as agreed upon in the lease.

Write a Lease Violation Warning Letter

The landlord can also write a lease violation letter to let the tenant know they have neglected their responsibilities. A violation letter should contain the following information:

  • Property address
  • Names of the tenants
  • The lease violation
  • The date and time of the violation
  • The deadline for correcting the violation
  • The consequences of not fixing the violation

Evict the Tenant

If a tenant refuses to fulfill their responsibilities, the landlord may have to evict them. An eviction is when a property owner removes a tenant from the property. The eviction process requires a court order demanding renters to remove themselves and their belongings from the unit by a specific date.

What to Know Before the Real Estate Exam

In a lease agreement, the landlord and tenant have different responsibilities regarding the rental property. For example, landlords are responsible for serious maintenance issues, tenant safety, and heating and cooling. Tenants are responsible for property maintenance, waste management, and any property damages.

As a future real estate pro, it’s your job to know what the tenant is responsible for vs what the landlord is responsible for. After reading this post, you should have a clear idea of how responsibilities are split between property owners and renters.

Of course, you still have a lot to learn before your testing day. Study other crucial concepts using our online Real Estate Flashcards!

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