As A Tenant, What Preventative Maintenance Should You Do?

A landlord isn’t the only one responsible for rental upkeep. In fact, many state and local laws require tenants to maintain or repair an apartment in a certain way. For example, if your toilet is clogged because you flushed something down it other than toilet paper, the cost and responsibility of unclogging it falls squarely on your shoulders. 

While preventative maintenance won’t eliminate all issues, it will save you time and money down the road. That’s why Handy Tenant would like to provide you with the following preventative maintenance tenants are responsible for. 

Waste disposal

Throwing away trash is a necessary task tenants are responsible for in order to maintain a clean, sanitary home. Most cities provide trash disposal services for which they generally charge a fee. Tenants are often responsible for paying this fee according to their rental agreement. In places without regular trash services, it’s important to figure out a disposal strategy and stick with it. 

Pest Control

It’s a landlord's responsibility to ensure a rental is pest-free before a tenant moves in. However, once occupied, a tenant automatically assumes this responsibility for keeping it that way. In fact, tenants can be held financially liable for the abatement of an infestation and any structural problems that need to be corrected if they fail to prevent the control of rodents and insects.


Lawn and yard maintenance is often a tenant’s responsibility depending on their lease agreement with a landlord. This means you will be responsible for mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, general cleaning, and keeping a yard safe. Failure to do so can result in financial liability for unmaintained property and any city or county ordinance violation. 

Holes in the Wall

An easy way to make an apartment feel like a home is to hang photos and art on the walls. However, when it’s time for you to move out, you, as a tenant, are responsible for repairing holes and reapplying paint to cover up any damage. If this isn’t something you want to deal with, you may want to consider using no-damage wall hangers. Otherwise, your security deposit will go toward repairs and a new paint job. 

Mold Prevention

Mold grows where there’s moisture inside a rental unit. Mold is often a landlord's responsibility if there are any structural issues with a unit, such as a leaky roof. However, a tenant is often liable if mold is the result of poor hygiene practices, such as leaving wet towels in the corner of a bathroom. Tenants are also responsible for cleaning surface mold on bathroom walls and surfaces.

Proper Appliance Use

Appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, and disposals, won’t last long unless they’re properly used and cared for. This makes preventative maintenance like keeping appliances clean a must for any tenant. Failure to do so can result in having to foot the bill for any necessary repairs or replacement. That’s why it’s important to review your lease carefully to understand what appliances you are responsible for maintaining. 

Smoke Detector Maintenance

People rarely think about smoke detectors until they go off or need new batteries. When a smoke detector needs new batteries, it’s often a tenants responsibility to replace them, unless a lease says otherwise. If a smoke detector goes off for any other reason aside from a false alarm, such as cooking, it’s essential to notify emergency personnel and your landlord as soon as possible. 

Minor plumbing issues

Minor plumbing repairs are often the responsibility of a tenant. This means you should be very mindful of what you are sending down the drain. If a sink or toilet becomes clogged and it’s your fault, you’ll likely be stuck with the plumbing bill if you flushed a diaper down the toilet or poured some bacon grease down the sink. 

Light Bulbs & HVAC Filters

This may come as a surprise, but as a tenant, you’re often responsible for replacing burned-out light bulbs and changing HVAC air filters. These minor preventative maintenance tasks are typically not a landlord’s obligation. That’s why it’s essential to check your lease to see what’s required. 

Contacting the Landlord

It’s important to note that it’s illegal for a tenant to be responsible for all repairs to a rental unit. With that in mind, however, it is your responsibility to contact your landlord when the property needs to be repaired. Failure to do so could result in liability for repair costs and more. Furthermore, unless authorized under a lease agreement, a tenant can’t make repairs on their own without landlord permission. However, in most states, a tenant can go ahead and make necessary repairs and be compensated if a landlord fails to respond. 

Move Out Cleaning

When the time comes to move out of your rental unit, it's important not to assume you can just hand over the keys and walk away. In fact, many lease agreements require tenants to clean up and make repairs before they move out. If you don’t, you could risk your security deposit and be held liable for any additional expenses it didn’t cover. A good rule of thumb is that if you altered anything in the unit, it’s your responsibility to repair or restore it to the way it was when you first moved in. 

Preventative Maintenance Failure

Failure to maintain a rental unit as a tenant according to the terms of a lease agreement can result in the following: 

Security Deposit Forfeit 

A security deposit is often used to pay for any cleaning or to repair damage caused by a tenant to a rental unit. Unfortunately, this is a hefty chunk of change that many tenants rely on to get back. That’s why it’s essential to keep your unit clean and well-maintained throughout the lease term.


Eviction is the worst-case scenario for any tenant who doesn’t follow the terms of their lease agreement, including any repair and preventative maintenance tasks. This can leave you scrambling to find another place to live via a 30-day or less eviction notice and forfeiting your security deposit. 

Handy Tenant

Preventative maintenance tasks are often unavoidable as a tenant. In these instances, it’s best to figure out how to handle basic tasks yourself. That’s where Handy Tenant comes in. We provide informative and 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! 

Click here to learn more!