Maintenance and Repairs? Whose job is it, anyways?!

It is a sunny Des Moines day, you head to the sink to grab a glass of water only to find out the water isn’t working. When figuring out what to do next, you have to figure out whether it is a repair for your landlord, the water utility company, or if it is your time to pull up the handy YouTube instruction videos and figure out how to do it yourself.

Let’s take a few steps back. What are the repair responsibilities of a landlord? After looking at our handy dandy handbook ( find this sentence: “Landlords should make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition.” and“Landlords shall maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating,ventilation, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances (including elevators) in a good and safe working order.” Always check your lease agree mentor any other documents to see if there is any instruction or protocol about repairs. Calmly communicating your need for maintenance is important, whether by phone, email or filling out a notice at the office. After looking at the wonderful handbook and your lease agreement, you can politely inform your landlord and schedule an appropriate time for the repairs to happen.

Landlords are required to make repairs in a timely manner, which by law is 7 days. Less time is allowed for emergency repairs, such as lack of heat or water. If you find that you are having trouble getting repairs made in a timely manner, you may contact the City Rental Inspector for assistance. There is a No Retaliation code if you need to involve the inspector. All cities in Iowa with a population of 15,000 or more are required to have rental inspectors. If your city is too small to have an inspector on staff, give HOME, Inc. a call for further options!

What are the repair responsibilities of a tenant?Tenants are required to take good care of the landlord’s property. If the damage or needed repair is caused directly by the tenant (or their family or guest) the Iowa law allows the landlord to repair the tenant related damages and bill the tenant for the cost. After the repair has been made the landlord must submit an itemized bill to the tenant of the cost. The landlord could also notify the tenant in writing with a 7 day notice citing the needed repair or lack of cleanliness. The tenant must be allowed 7 days after receipt of the notice to make the repair at their own cost or clean the unit as required. Disregarding a notice from the landlord could result in early termination of the lease and a bad reference.

Intrigued by this subject, you might still have the question of ‘whose job is it, anyways?!’ Does this mean that the landlord is in charge of vacuuming tenant’s apartments every week? And that answer is no. According to the Rights to Sanitary Conditions, the landlord has the right to expect the tenant maintain their rental unit in a clean and safe condition. Keeping your unit clean and safe is a tenant responsibility and is usually part of the lease agreement. The landlord may deduct money from the deposit when you move out for cleaning the unit or to cover any damages. If the tenant damages the carpet,they can be charged for entire carpet replacement!

A successful renter understands not only their rights, they are aware of their responsibilities.

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