Renters, Here's When You Should Call Your Landlord [Infographic]
“So, I’m sitting in the living room and suddenly, I’m in the dark! Thankfully, it wasn’t a blown fuse. The light bulb above me just burned out. Should I call my landlord?”
This is the question my friend, Sara, asked me the other day. Normally, I’d say changing a light bulb is an easy fix for a renter. In this case, Sara’s repair required a specific type of bulb for recessed lighting. She opted to call her landlord for assistance due to the cathedral ceiling location of the light itself.
Thinking of Sara’s situation made me wonder, “When should a renter call their landlord?”
As explained in the helpful post, “Dear Future Landlord, Here’s What We Need From You,” before signing a lease, it's wise to go over with the landlord what is expected of a tenant. This may clarify what a tenant is responsible for and what the landlord covers. Right from the start, clear expectations and open lines of communication fosters a positive tenant/landlord relationship.
Here are a few scenarios which should be brought to a landlord's attention:
Let’s say a hurricane brings torrential rain. When the back yard suddenly becomes a body of water, make a quick call to the landlord describing the waves that are splashing into the lower level of the home.
As fun as it may be to gather around a fire pit, it's not so fun if something else catches on fire. After calling the fire department for emergency assistance, the next call should be to the landlord.
A landlord should be kept in the loop if:
- the water heater malfunctions
- the pipes freeze
- a water line breaks
- the ceiling has a sudden leak
- a toilet or drain backs up
- the air conditioner quits
- the furnace goes out
- a wooden step on the staircase rots through
- the garbage disposal fails
- any of the appliances stop working
When crucial repairs around the property are required, contact the landlord as soon as possible.
As this MilitaryByOwner article states, a tenant is entitled to a place that is “habitable,” as in acceptable to reside in. If a horde of roaches, a plague of mice, or a brood of wombats invade a rental property, this is an issue a landlord needs to address immediately.
During the first week at a new rental, I returned home to find a stranger in our house, using our washer and dryer to do his laundry. After calling the police, my next call was to the landlord. The landlord needs to know what has occurred at their property.
When renting a property located in a humid climate, part of our lease included a waiver declaring the potential for mold. It was important to call our landlord when our basement wall became damp and a miniature fungus garden began to grow.
When contacting your landlord, try to fully explain the problematic situation. Let’s say there is an issue with a water heater - has the unit stopped heating the water? Or has the unit burst, engulfing the home in water? Be clear with what has occurred and what assistance is needed. Additionally, keep a few notes on when the issue began and when attempts to reach your landlord were made. This will help document any tenant requirements of giving proper notice to the landlord.
Since positive tenant/landlord communication is so important, chat with the landlord about these topics:
- Census. No matter if it's a significant other, a family member, or a friendly Wal-Mart greeter, the landlord needs to know how many residents are now within the home.
- Animals. If the lease was signed with only two rabbits in the residence and now there are 12? This is news that needs to be shared.
- Landscaping. Adding flowers, shrubs, or a garden with medicinal herbs needs to be cleared through the homeowner.
- Design. This quote, “Always ask before painting”, from our post, “Dear Future Tenant, Here’s What I Need From You,” seems to fit. If binge watching home improvement shows inspires paint or décor changes, run it by the landlord first.
As a tenant, use common sense when making contact with the landlord.
Rather than sending in little requests to tighten a loose bolt or oil a squeaky hinge, be in touch when there's a valid need. For further scoop on keeping tenant/landlord relations on a positive note, here are a few helpful articles and posts:
- Ask These Questions Before You Rent
- 7 Signs That It Might Be Time To Move
- Renters: Avoid These Scenarios