Home Maintenance for Renters

Who Is Responsible?

Certain items in your rental unit will be your responsibility to maintain. These typically include smoke detector batteries, light bulbs, air conditioning units, and issues that may be caused by tenant negligence, such as pest control, plumbing blockages, and broken glass. 

Most other rental repairs are the responsibility of your landlord. When in doubt, try consulting your lease document.

Requesting Rental Repairs

If your unit needs a repair that is the responsibility of your landlord, you can request maintenance in writing. Be sure to include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Address and unit number
  • Repair request date
  • Description of repair that is needed
  • Make and model of appliance (if applicable)
  • Your contact information (so your landlord can let you know when they will schedule the repair)

You can download a sample Repair Request Form at the top of this page. 

Maintenance Guide: Common Home Repairs

These are some of the most common repairs that tenants will need to make in their rental units. 

Changing a Light Bulb

  • Light bulb
  1. SAFETY WARNING: Turn off the light before removing the old bulb.
  2. Check the old bulb for the wattage (e.g. 40W or 60W). You will need to replace the burnt-out bulb with one that has the same or a lower wattage.
  3. Screw in the new light bulb. 

Testing and Maintaining Smoke Detectors

  • Batteries
  1. Some smoke detectors have a small light that flashes red or green to indicate the battery status. 
  2. Most detectors have a button that can be pressed and held to produce a test sound. If the alarm sounds, the battery is working.
  3. If there is no indicator light, and the test button does not produce a sound, you should replace the batteries.
  4. Once you have replaced the batteries, test the smoke detector again. If it still does not produce a sound, you will need to replace the entire alarm unit.
  5. You should test all smoke detectors in your home once a month. Be sure to check your carbon monoxide (CO) alarms as well. 

Changing an Air Conditioning Filter

  • New or cleaned air conditioning filter
  • Screwdriver
  1. During peak usage, you may need to change your filter as often as every month or two.
  2. SAFETY WARNING: Turn off the power on the air conditioning unit. For maximum safety, unplug the unit or switch off the circuit breaker.
  3. Remove the old filter. Typically, you can slide it out, but you may need to unhook or unscrew it (depending on the model of your unit).
  4. Examine the filter. Is it disposable or reusable? If the filter is disposable, check for the size and model number and purchase a new one that will fit your unit. 
  5. If the filter is reusable, check the manual for cleaning instructions. You may only need to rinse with water (allow to dry fully).
  6. Replace the new or cleaned filter – make sure that it is inserted in the proper direction. 

Unclogging a Toilet

  • Plunger
  • Toilet snake (or clothes hanger)
  • Dish soap
  • Vinegar and baking soda
  • Bucket
  1. If you have a plunger, try using it to remove the blockage. Continue to flush. If this does not work, or if you do not have a plunger, you may be able to use other common household solutions.
    • TIP: In a pinch, you can use a wire clothes hanger as an improvised plumber’s snake. 
  2. Try pouring some dish soap into the toilet bowl (about half a cup). This will help the blockage to pass through the pipes more easily.
  3. If this does not fix the problem, pour hot water from the bathtub into the toilet.
  4. You can also try pouring a cup of baking soda and two cups of vinegar into the toilet bowl. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes. 

Never Flush These! Common sources of blocked pipes (and expensive plumbing calls) include non-flushable baby wipes, Q-tips, menstrual products, diapers, paper towels, cat litter, hair, dental floss, gum, food, and cooking grease. 

Sink 3

Unclogging a Sink or Bathtub

  • Plunger 
  • Plumber’s snake (or clothes hanger) 
  • Vinegar and baking soda 
  • Bucket 
  • Screwdriver
  1. If you have a garbage disposal, try turning it on – this may fix the issue.
  2. You can use the same methods above (unclogging a toilet) to clear a blocked kitchen or bathroom sink, or a bathtub.
  3. If the sink is still blocked after trying all of the above methods, you may need to check the P-trap, which is the elbow-shaped pipe under the sink:
    • Place a bucket under the pipe. Unscrew the connectors on the pipe to remove the P-trap. 
    • Clean the P-trap and the surrounding pipes of any debris and grime. 
    • You may wish to use a plumber’s snake to check the upper pipes for any blockages before reconnecting the P-trap. 
    • Screw the P-trap back on. Pour hot water down the drain to flush out any remaining debris. 
  4. For a clogged bathtub, you may be able to use a screwdriver to remove the drainage cap. Check the pipe for blockages (loose hair is a common source of this). Screw the cap back on.