What Do Landlords Legally Have To Provide Their Tenants?

Last Updated: August 15, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

The things a landlord is or isn’t required to provide vary drastically from state to state and city to city. In general, rental property must have any features needed for basic health and safety.

Items and Features a Landlord May Have To Provide

Below is a list of common items and features that a landlord may provide on rental property. Each heading summarizes state standards and, where appropriate, links to more detailed information.

Heating and Air Conditioning

Almost every state requires a working heating system on rental property. Many places only mandate heating during the cold season.

Air conditioning often is not required. However, if provided, the landlord usually must keep it in good repair.

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Hot Water and Plumbing

Nearly all states guarantee adequate hot water plus safe, functional plumbing.

While local standards can vary, these are the only states that don’t require hot water on rental property:

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Plumbing Fixtures

Some laws require basic plumbing fixtures in reasonable condition. Specifics are rare at the state level, but most city and county housing codes have details. These are the common minimums:

  • At least one toilet, hooked up to public sewage or a septic tank
  • A bathtub or shower
  • A bathroom sink
  • A kitchen sink

Electrical Services

Electrical utilities are the second most common feature protected by habitability laws. State law almost always guarantees working electrical service on rental property.

Light Bulbs

The landlord almost never has to replace light bulbs or particular light fixtures. It’s the tenant’s job to supply bulbs in most cases. This is true even for most housing codes that require light fixtures.

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Laws about appliances are complex and varied. Most states don’t make the landlord provide appliances. This is true for both kitchens (stove, dishwasher, refrigerator) and laundry (washer, dryer). The states which have some sort of requirement for providing appliances are:

However, most places do make the landlord responsible for provided appliances. Local housing codes often make the landlord provide a stove and refrigerator.

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Garbage Removal and Pickup

States differ quite a lot on requirements related to garbage removal and pickup. Some, like South Dakota, leave all standards up to the lease or local laws. Others, like Nevada, make the landlord provide containers for removal plus pickup services. Still others, like Oklahoma, have rules which apply to multi-unit properties only.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors

Most states require smoke alarms and CO detectors on rental property. This requirement usually is part of the fire code rather than the state habitability law. Missouri is the only place without statewide rules for such safety devices.

In most cases (with exceptions, like Illinois), CO detectors don’t have to be on every property. They’re only required when the property contains or adjoins a monoxide-emitting device.

The law usually requires detection for furnaces, other fuel-burning appliances, and attached garages. This standard is most common when a state incorporates the International Fire Code, like Colorado.

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Battery Replacement

Tenants usually are responsible for changing batteries in safety devices like smoke alarms. Standards can vary a lot from state to state. In general, the landlord must provide working safety devices when the tenancy begins.

Afterward, the tenant usually has to perform all day-to-day care like battery changes. However, if the device breaks, the landlord must repair or replace it.

Fire Extinguishers

There’s no statewide requirement for fire extinguishers in single- and two-family dwellings. All states except Missouri require fire extinguishers in common areas within 75 feet of any multi-unit dwelling. Some states also require extinguishers inside each multi-unit dwelling.

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Window Coverings

Most states require ground-floor windows in working order, for safety purposes. Requirements for interior window coverings or exterior weatherproofing are not otherwise common. Stricter requirements exist only in a few states with seasonal storms, like Massachusetts.

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Doors and Locks

Doors aren’t named in many habitability laws, but rental property is almost never safe without a working and secure front door. Some states (prominently, Texas) also have standards for locks and other security features.

Lock Changes

Only a few states prohibit lock changes without landlord permission. Lock changes usually are legal unless it’s against the terms of the rental agreement. Landlords have access rights for maintenance and emergencies, so tenants risk eviction if they don’t provide copies of new keys.

If a tenant is a recent victim of domestic or sexual assault, many places make landlords change locks upon request (at the tenant’s expense). Where the landlord doesn’t make the change, the tenant usually can have it done and bill the landlord for the cost.


Landlords have limited legal responsibilities related to landscaping. They must almost always keep common areas clean and safe. This means removing fallen trees and similar hazards. A landlord usually doesn’t have to maintain landscaping to a particular standard otherwise.

Mold Testing and Treatment

Mold is a severe health hazard. It is always the type of issue protected by basic health and safety rules. Landlords must address mold, if tenant irresponsibility didn’t cause the issue.

The following states have specific mold remediation statutes:

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Pest Control and Extermination

Pest infestations are serious threats to health and safety. This includes rats, cockroaches, bed bugs, mice, and ants. The landlord must almost always address infestations that affect multiple units.

Landlords usually are still responsible for extermination in single-unit infestations. The landlord can bill for the cost of fixing an infestation caused by tenant negligence.

The following states have specific pest control statutes:

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Items and Features Landlords Usually Don’t Have To Provide

While there are usually exceptions in at least some state and local laws, most jurisdictions don’t make a landlord provide the following:

  • Air conditioning
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Fire extinguishers for single- and two-family dwellings
  • Landscaping
  • Replacement batteries for smoke alarms
  • Replacement light bulbs
  • Testing for mold or pests
  • Washer or dryer