Renter's Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: September 29, 2023 by Roberto Valenzuela

When a property issue violates housing laws, renters have rights for repairs. Landlords must begin repairs within a reasonable time, sometimes specified by statute. If they don’t, tenants might end the lease, do repairs and deduct the cost from rent, or sue the landlord.

What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible For?

Tenants are responsible for repairing damage they cause, as well as minor damage that doesn’t threaten health or safety.

Landlords aren’t liable for damage related to the negligent or deliberate actions of a tenant or an invitee. They also have no liability to repair goods owned by the tenant, even when it relates to rental property. For example, landlords don’t have to repair stoves or refrigerators supplied by tenants.

An issue also must be severe enough to affect the use of the rental property. Tenants must repair minor issues at their own expense, such as light fixtures or worn carpeting. The law doesn’t mandate rental property that’s pretty, clean, convenient, or otherwise issue-free.

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How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs?

About three-quarters of states require a landlord to make repairs within a specific time frame after proper notice. This varies by state and issue, ranging from 24 hours up to 30 days.

A large minority of states are non-specific and allow a generally “reasonable time” for repairs. What’s “reasonable” depends case by case, but is almost never more than 30 days, either.

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Do Landlords Have to Pay for a Hotel During Repairs?

Most states don’t make landlords provide alternative accommodation during repairs. Only Colorado and Virginia have a specific requirement to this effect. The following other states let tenants find alternative accommodation themselves, and recover the cost from the landlord later:

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Can a Landlord Make a Tenant Pay for Repairs?

Landlords in most states can only make tenants pay for repairs by specific agreement, in a few narrow cases. By default, landlords are financially liable for all necessary repairs.

Many states do let the landlord make a specific, written agreement with the tenant to shift responsibility for certain repairs. The tenant usually must receive “adequate consideration” in exchange. This means a fair value for agreeing to the task, usually a rent reduction.


Tenants are always responsible for repairs to damage they’ve caused deliberately or negligently. Landlords can always make tenants pay for such repairs, and the law doesn’t consider them “necessary” repairs in most cases.

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Can a Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs?

A landlord can only rarely refuse to make needed repairs. Several states let a landlord refuse if the tenant has defaulted on rent. A few more allow a refusal to repair when the tenant has denied the necessary notice or access. Otherwise, a landlord must repair as the law requires.


A landlord can always refuse repairs that aren’t legally required in the first place, such as repairs to damage the tenant caused.

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What Can a Tenant Do if a Landlord Doesn’t Make Timely Repairs?

Tenants have several options when a landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice. Specifics depend on the locality and rental terms. In most cases, tenants can end the lease or sue the landlord for an injunction or monetary damages. Many states also let tenants do repairs themselves and deduct from rent. In a few places, tenants can even withhold rent.

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