How to Know if an Expense is a Tenant’s or a Landlord’s

How to Know if an Expense is a Tenant’s or a Landlord’s

A commonly asked question on various forums is whether a certain expense is a landlord’s or a tenant’s.

While EVERY landlord is different these are some opinions and advice.

Whose Expense is it Anyway?

1. What does your lease identify as your responsibility versus the landlords?– A detailed and complete lease answers this question. You may decide to include a deductible in your lease along with maintenance expectations. Therefore it is really easy for a tenant to realize that the first $100 of the expense is their expectation.

2. Wear and Tear versus Not– Most leases say that it if the breakage is caused by the tenant’s action and not normal wear and tear then the responsibility and liability for the repair is at the tenant’s expense. For example, flushing rice, bones, etc down the disposal and it breaking will be your expense. Landlords LOVE it when people are honest about repairs because they will find out 😉 Contact the landlord either way (most leases require the landlord to facilitate repairs ) but by being up front there are no surprises when you get the bill.

3. Normal Upkeep versus Landlord’s Repairs– Changing Filters, Light Bulbs, Smoke Detectors, Mulching, Landscaping, Mowing, Weeding, Shoveling, Leaves and Gutters, Interior Cleaning are all typically tenants responsibilities. Things like painting a deck is the landlord’s. A typical “rule of thumb” would be responsibilities done reoccurring less than a year would be a tenant’s. More than a year would be the landlord’s.

4. AS/IS versus Landlord’s Responsibility– It is very important that you read your lease. While in many houses the landlord is responsible there are some appliances that many will exclude such as refrigerators and washer/dryer. While it is VERY area dependent it is usually based on what is normally provided and what is extra. For example, for a house in California it may be very normal to not provide these appliances. Therefore many landlords will supply them but provide them as/is. This means they will not repair them. Therefore it is important to read your lease (see number 1) and know your responsibilities before you get started. Saves some surprises down the road!

5. Repair versus Upgrade– Upgrades are not repairs! A repair is to fix something back to working order. If you wish for a “newer” model than that it is an upgrade. A landlord is only required to keep everything in working order.

6. Homeowner Versus Rental – The last important thing to note is this is a rental. So while landlords will keep it in good shape and it is important to make it comfortable; they aren’t going to keep it upgraded (typically) to the same “level” that one would if it is your personal home. That being said, if it is not in the “budget” then usually a landlord with let you repair it at your cost or expense.


Properties are usually rented at the price for the condition they are in. Be aware that if upgrades are continually requested (which is one’s right) and granted, then there is a VERY good chance the landlord will increase the rent.


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