Who Pays - Tenant or Landlord?

20 Replies

Hi all,

I am trying to hammer out the repairs and replacements a tenant is responsible to pay for as well as my responsibilities as the home owner. I have been reading on BP and the answers are all over the map. Will you please help me? Thanks very much!



  • - Light bulbs
  • - Miniblinds (that have been damaged by the tenant)
  • - Chipped countertops (caused by the tenant)
  • - Broken doorknob
  • - Broken window or screen (caused by the tenant)

Anything that typical breaks down over time, I would replace myself. I would replace the mini-blinds after every tenant seeing that they are typically a cheap item to replace.. To me its not worth the time to replace them. If they are broken by the tenant, hold them responsible. A door knob should last quite some time. If obvious that the tenant damaged the door knob while moving in, etc,  hold them accountable. Windows, screens...hold them accountable.

When it comes down to it, you really have to use some common sense. The key to success with buy and hold is reducing vacancy. If its a gray area and you have tenants that are never late with payments and have called you once all year long for something legit, I would certainly take care of it for them at my expense. Losing one additional month due to vacancy is a killer.

With a doorknob, at least Kwikset brand, there are actually metal parts that do wear down; so if the doorknob is not working because these moving metal parts are worn, that one is a repair that the landlord covers. 

Ultimately you have to determine whether a repair is due to normal wear or not. So regularly checking things in the property allows you to see condition. Even carpet and vinyl flooring will wear out over a long enough time; consider yourself lucky if you have only had one tenant in a unit that is there long enough to have worn out the flooring in a normal fashion. 

We replace mini-blinds after each tenant; as noted, they're cheap and they do break. If they're missing entirely, I would charge the tenant for them though. We've had interesting things go missing after a move out - toilet paper holders, sink stoppers, the wands from the vertical blinds, an occasional towel rack. If the tenant didn't tell us something was broken during their tenancy, and simply threw it away when they moved, we deduct for them. 

I want to thank you all for taking the time to respond. What about chips in countertops and broken windows or screens?

Thanks again!


thank of it like car insurance companies do with repairs on new cars.

Anything that breaks down naturally is not the new car owners responsibility as its a warranty issue (nor the tenants responsibility I.E. - AC or water heater issues; roof leaks etc)

Anything that is a result of "an unwarranted action" such as causing damage to the body of the vehicle or causing "physical" damages to the property is the car owners responsibility (and your tenants)

Hope that helps -

I hope you took very good photos at move-in, gave copies to the tenant & had them sign that they were accurate & that they received them. Same thing with the walk-through checklist before you turned over the keys. Both these things will give you (almost!) infallible proof as to who did what. If not, consider doing so for your next tenant.

Window treatments get trashed, especially if they're cheap to start with (like mini-blinds). I, personally, have unintentionally destroyed many sets. You might ignore those & the light bulbs in favor of the more high-dollar repairs like the countertop/knobs/screen. Gives the impression you're willing to "work with them" on a fair compromise for repairs.

But if it boils down to a matter of "he said" vs. "he said," you may have to back off without proper documentation.

Thank you Westin and Kathleen! You both provided excellent suggestions. I have a walk-through checklist but I didn't think of photos. I will definitely take them prior to move-in.


One more question folks. Who pays for a broken dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer, or refrigerator? I assume it is a question of normal wear or incorrect use.

Thanks again.


Originally posted by @Mike Russo:

One more question folks. Who pays for a broken dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer, or refrigerator? I assume it is a question of normal wear or incorrect use.

Thanks again.


My lease states that I always repair/replace the fridge (granted it's not tenant damage), I will also repair/replace the dishwasher (granted it's not tenant damage) but I can choose to remove the dishwasher at any time. 

Washer and dryer, my lease states that I do not repair/replace if they stop working and they cannot be removed without my permission.

Thank you Chris. I curious. Why will you repair the dishwasher and fridge but not the washer and dryer?


The washer and dryer are there for their convenience more than necessity so I don't take responsibility for them. I don't even provide them, it usually works out where the previous leaves them or the new tenant has their own. If I have a property with a dishwasher I'll install one but since its a convenience item also I have the option to not repair/replace if the tenant can't seem to use it properly. Fridge is definitely a necessity so I will make sure that's working.

Thanks again Chris! Happy Investing!


Great post Mike. I am writing my first rental agreement. I agree with the convenience vs necessity items. I will repair and replace the refrigerator and leave my old washer and dryer. I will not replace or repair the washer/dryer since it is a convenience item (sweeten the pot for the tenant). Most SFR tenants in my area expect to provide their own washer/dryer but not necessarily the dishwasher so I would take care of the dishwasher as well. Chipped counters and broken windows would be the tenants responsibility.

Thanks much Justin!


I provide all appliances including w/d, micro, dishwasher, refer, and stove's.  And I repair or replace as needed.  Unless it is obvious that it was tenant misuse.  Then they pay for it.

Very generous Phillip. Thank you. It's interesting that I'm getting answers that are all over the map but I really appreciate the different perspectives.


@Mike Russo  broken means tenant pays.

- Light bulbs - they were all in the unit and working when it was rented. I charge for every missing and burnt out bulb. It's a consumable like batteries in a smoke detector.

- Miniblinds (that have been damaged by the tenant) - Mini blinds where in good working order when the tenant moved in. They are inexpensive so tenant and buy new and replace if so inclined. I charge for installing new blinds.

- Chipped countertops (caused by the tenant) - chips are not wear and tear. Charge to repair counter top. If it can't be repaired you can charge them to replace it. You might have to provide some credit for age. For example if a counter top is 30 years old, the judge will likely throw out the claim since the age exceeds counter top life expectancy.

- Broken doorknob - What is broken? Move metal or plastic parts non functioning due to wear (landlord pays cost) or damage from striking wall or being bent moving furniture in and out (tenant pays cost).

- Broken window or screen (caused by the tenant) - I charge the tenant for these. They are specifically mentioned in the lease as being the responsibility of the tenant. The only exception would be due to criminal activity that the tenant had no part in as substantiated by a police report. If it's not in the lease then they will always tell you that someone else broke it.

For appliances, if you furnish it you are responsible for it when it fails (some try to get around this by the "furnish for convenience" and that might work with some tenants but higher end tenants feel entitled to stuff that was there when they moved in. If you don't fix it they will move on when the lease is up. Turnover costs far more than an appliance service call. If it fails due to improper care, abuse, or neglect by the tenant then it costs them. This is a judgment call but the lease should address failure. Damage like scratches, bent or broken parts from exterior forces are the tenants.

I rent my washers and dryers - in the beginning it was the difference between profit and loss because I didn't buy right. I know some that rent frigs and even electric ranges. The thinking is if it's not a fixture (attached to the property) the tenant should furnish it. If they don't furnish it then they can pay. Really this is all about how the local custom is and what your customers expect. Certainly in a 3rd floor apartment (no elevator) you would face serious headwind (not to mention damage to common areas from moving appliances in and out) if you didn't furnish appliances.

Thank you for the very thorough response Bill. I really appreciate it!


Another item to consider is AC/Furnace filters. Here in Phoenix, the AC filter must be replaced at least every 30 days in the summer, and every 60-90 days in the winter months. This is an item the tenant is supposed to pay for and replace. However, I've found that many tenants have no idea these filters need to be replaced, let alone the wherewithal to replace them on a set schedule.  I've decided it's easier for me to buy the filters and deliver a set amount to the property with detailed instructions on how to replace them. I then set a calendar reminder for when they should run out and more need to be delivered. I will deliver them personally and also take the time to inspect the property. 

You can get the filters in bulk from HDSupply.com for less than $1 per filter. IMO, this small expense is worth it to ensure your expensive HVAC system is well maintained. 

Thanks Ryan! I've purchased a years supply of filters and replace them myself. It gives me an opportunity to view the inside of the residence on a regular basis.


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