10 Most Common Apartment Maintenance Problems

As a tenant, it’s your job to help maintain your apartment and take care of things if they are an easy fix. Although it may feel like you’re not exactly qualified to tackle certain projects on your own, Handy Tenant can help educate and empower you about property maintenance and repair with our comprehensive list of video guides that will help you accomplish necessary tasks. That’s why we’d like to provide you with the ten most common apartment maintenance problems and how to address them on your own. 

The 10 Most Common Apartment Maintenance Problems


Appliances are one of those things that often require a qualified technician to fix. However, there are a few things that can be done quickly and easily without much training. 

The fix: Appliances like a refrigerator, microwave, or dishwasher are often powered via a standard electrical cord. If your appliance isn’t hardwired, find the outlet it’s plugged into. Once you find the cord and outlet, make sure the cord is securely in place in the outlet and then test your appliance to see if it’s working properly. If not, it’s important to see if there’s something wrong with the outlet itself. Plug in another small appliance to see if you’re getting power. If other devices aren’t powering on, you likely tripped the circuit breaker. If this isn’t the case, it’s important to contact your landlord and inform them of the problem you are having with your appliance. 

Clogged Sink

A clogged sink needs to be addressed quickly before it turns into a much bigger, more expensive problem that you may be held liable for. Most of the time, it’s a simple issue that you can fix yourself with a little guidance from Handy Tenant.

The fix: As a tenant, it’s your responsibility not to drop objects down the drain line, and be mindful of how much grease and food is being sent down at one given time. Unless there is a larger problem with the drain line, a clogged sink is typically an issue you are responsible for solving. But don’t worry, it might be a quick fix with the help of rubber gloves and a flashlight.

First, remove all of your belongings from underneath the kitchen sink area. Use an old towel or rag to soak up any wet spots. Once you’re at eye level with the base of the kitchen sink, dry the pipes as much as possible. Then, slide something that can catch leaking water, while your work beneath the kitchen sink. Next, locate the drainpipe trap, and use both hands to firmly turn the two nuts found on the trap plumbing counterclockwise. 

Once you have both of the nuts loosened, ensure you have a bowl for the drainage below, and then remove the trap. This allows liquid and food to flow freely. Discard the debris outside or in a trash can. Then reinstall the drainpipe onto the kitchen sink drain, ensuring any pipe drain nuts are in the correct position at the very end of the pipes. 

Carefully hand-tighten both nuts on the trap by turning them both in a clockwise direction. However, it’s important not to over-tighten. This could crack the hardware and the pipes if you do. If you still have concerns, submit a work order to your landlord. This will help speed up the overall repair process. 

Hot Water Issues

Every once in a while, you may experience a less than pleasant cold shower. When this happens, you’ll want to address the problem right away to ensure you have hot water when you need it. Often the problem is an easy fix. However, if you are unable to tackle the problem on your own, it’s essential to contact your landlord or property management company as soon as possible. 

The fix: If you have an electric water heater, first check the main circuit panel to see if the breaker was tripped and needs to be reset. If the breaker was tripped and resetting was successful, you should be able to hear the water heating up inside the tank. After about 20 minutes, if there is still no hot water, it’s likely a problem with the heating elements or tank thermostats. These repairs require a handyman or plumber to complete, so you'll want to submit a work order to your landlord at this time.

If you have a gas water heater, make sure your gas service is on and that your most recent bill has been paid. If you’re sure the service is on and your water heater still isn’t working, then you’ll need to relight your water heater’s pilot light. Do this by turning the gas valve to the off position, and leave it off for 5 minutes before attempting to relight it. 

Then, you’re going to want to turn the gas valve to the “pilot” position and push inward or hold down the pilot button while pushing the red ignitor button in. Hold down the pilot button for as much as 30 seconds before turning the gas valve to the ON position. If your attempt is successful, you should hear the flame burner flare-up in the tank. If you’re unsuccessful in relighting the pilot light, repeat the previous steps several more times to see if it lights.

If you still have concerns, submit a work order to your landlord.

Clogged Toilets

The bad news as a tenant is that if you clog your toilet, it’s your responsibility to fix it. If you don’t, and it causes extensive damage to the plumbing or sewer system, you could be held liable. This includes a clogged sink or tub as well. The good news is that a clogged toilet is often very easy to fix.

The fix: It’s important to understand how to properly clear a toilet without making a mess or causing moisture damage. Start by turning off the wall or floor valve that supplies water to the toilet. This will prevent it from overflowing. Next, use whatever plunger you have on hand and center it over the toilet drain before working it up and down. Ten to fifteen plunges should do the trick. 

You’ll know the blockage is successfully cleared when the water begins to drain out of the toilet and down the drain where it belongs! If no water drains, repeat plunging for another ten to twenty plunges. To see if you’ve cleared the blockage, turn the wall valve back on and watch for possible overflow when you flush the toilet.  

Garbage Disposals

Most tenants can attest that a garbage disposal is one of the most annoying apartment issues. At one point or another, a garbage disposal stops working because something gets put down that doesn’t belong. This can often be resolved with an Allen wrench and a little elbow grease. 

The fix: A garbage disposal motor will run even if the blades aren’t moving; this is what causes the humming sound. First, try to reset the disposal itself. On the bottom of the unit, look for a red button. Once you’ve located it, push the button inward to reset the disposal. Next, turn the garbage disposal on to see if that did the trick. If not, try unplugging the power cord under the kitchen sink. Once it’s unplugged, look inside the disposal and remove any debris and throw it away.

Once all possible blockage has been removed, give it one last check and push the red reset button. Lastly, grab an Allen wrench to manually turn the cutter plate. On the bottom of the disposal, directly in the center, you will find a hole for the wrench. Insert the short end of the wrench, and firmly pull the wrench toward you until the cutter plate starts to spin. Once it’s moving nicely, spin it in either direction a full five times, and then in the opposite direction five more times. Next, plug the disposal back in and flip the switch on. If your garbage disposal still isn’t working, it's important to submit a work order to your landlord to speed up the overall repair process.

AC Repairs

The most common time for an AC unit to develop issues is during the middle of summer. If an AC unit in your apartment stops working, it’s important to follow the advice below and contact your landlord to hire the help of a professional. 

The fix: For a wall-mounted thermostat, check to see if your thermostat is powered by batteries. If so, this could be your problem. Check the batteries by gently pulling the faceplate off the thermostat toward you. Find the battery compartment. Throw in a couple of new batteries that are usually either AA or AAA. Reinstall the faceplate, and the display should come back on. Then, select Cool and your desired temperature. 

If the power source is not an issue, it could be that your thermostat is not set properly to run in the cool mode. If you have a central A/C system and a wall-mounted thermostat, press the “Mode” button until the word “Cool” is displayed on your thermostat or press the switch to the cool setting position. Then, make sure your desired temperature on the thermostat is lower than the current temperature displayed to test it. If your AC unit still isn’t working, it's important to submit a work order to your landlord to speed up the overall repair process.

Furnace Repairs

Just as an AC unit causes problems during the summer, a furnace tends to break down during the winter when temperatures drop. This can lead to a big problem that leaves your apartment freezing. When the furnace goes out, it could be a number of things, which might require the help of a professional.  

The fix: First off, check to see if there’s any airflow whatsoever coming from your vents. If not, the furnace might not be getting any power. This could be resolved by resetting the circuit breaker. If this doesn’t work, it’s important to contact your landlord as soon as possible, especially during the winter months. Never attempt to fix a furnace on your own unless you are an experienced HVAC technician. This can result in serious injury or even death if you don’t know what you are doing. In the meantime, it’s best to use a plug-in electric heater to keep you warm until professional help arrives. 

Light Bulbs

Thanks to Thomas Edison, with his invention of the light bulb in 1879, all we have to do is flip a switch, and we’ve got light. However, if a light bulb goes out, it can feel like your in the 1870s again. Don’t fret; replacing light bulbs is an easy fix that most tenants can tackle on their own. 

The fix: Did you know you can prolong the life of your light bulb simply by ensuring the correct type and size? Plus, it’s imperative to get the right bulb wattage to prevent any electrical issues.

A great idea is to swap out the old incandescent light bulbs for the high efficiency LED bulbs, but make sure the wattage is the same. When in doubt regarding the wattage, size, or color, just ask for an associate’s help at your local hardware store. 

To properly change a light bulb, simply grasp the bulb lightly but firmly and push gently upwards and turn it counter-clockwise until it releases from the socket. Next, insert a replacement bulb and turn it clockwise until it’s set firmly in place and restore power by switching on the light. Unless you have specialty light bulbs or made prior arrangements with your landlord, you the tenant, are responsible for replacing burnt-out bulbs.


Dealing with pests can be one of the most annoying things a tenant has to deal with. That said, it’s often your responsibility to make sure any infestation is taken care of with the following advice. 

The fix: Rodents are scavengers. So, it’s important not to invite them in. Bags containing food should be stored in sealed containers. You should also consider storing food up high where rodents can’t access them. Make sure all food and drinks are properly sealed, and cans and dishes cleaned or placed in trash cans immediately after use. 

For the rodents stuck inside your home, the most effective way to eliminate them is to trap or bait them with bait boxes. You can find these at your nearest home or grocery store. If you have small children or pets, be sure to place traps and bait inside cabinetry or behind furniture, and instruct your children not to touch either. Once you find a rodent that’s been trapped or eaten bait, use adjustable pliers to pick up the dead rodent and place it in a trash can outside.

Smoke Detectors

Working correctly, smoke detectors save lives by providing an early warning that somethings on fire. As a tenant, it’s critical to maintain the smoke detectors in your apartment, especially in bedrooms and hallways. That’s why it’s essential to change the batteries and make sure the smoke detectors in your home are fully functional to minimize injuries and damage. 

The Fix: If you have an alarm beeping once every few seconds, it means the battery charge in your smoke detector is low. Simply install a new battery. Most older alarms are powered by 9-volt or AA batteries that fit into a side compartment of the alarm. To change, use firm pressure to open the compartment, remove the old battery for disposal and install a new one. Look for the corresponding positive and negative indicators for proper alignment. 

Handy Tenant

As a tenant, you’ll likely encounter more problems than just what’s listed here while renting an apartment. However, these ten issues likely represent most of the issues you’ll face. Keep in mind that none of them by themselves are that hard to fix. However, left ignored, each of these can end up costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage. That’s why it’s essential to treat each of these situations with care and get them fixed immediately. 

To learn more about basic maintenance and repair, sign up with Handy Tenant. We provide informative, easy to follow videos that walk you through simple fixes. With a comprehensive library or guide that covers the most common issues you’ll encounter with your unit, you can become your own handyman in no time!