Should Tenants Perform Property Repairs?

Landlords often ask the question, should I permit the tenant to perform maintenance and repairs (“repairs”) to the rental property? It’s a great question, because there is a lot of potential liability and conflict that can arise from a tenant performing repairs. As a general rule, landlords should not permit tenants to perform repairs to the property, but some exceptions do apply, which this article addresses. Knowing how to think through that question is important to getting to the right answer.

Tenant Caused

Landlords should first understand that not permitting (or requiring) a tenant to perform maintenance and repairs does not mean that the tenant is not obligated to have repairs performed. A good lease agreement will impose tenant obligations involving repairs, especially to fix what the tenant damaged.

When such repairs are needed, the landlord should control who performs the repairs and how that service is being performed, and the landlord would then charge those services to the tenant. That said, when the repair is light and minor enough, as shown below, the landlord can require the tenant to either perform the repair or maintenance himself or hire a proper vendor to perform the repair on the tenant’s behalf.

Minor Repairs

The tenant should be responsible for “minor repairs” that are needed during the tenancy. Some minor repairs can and should be performed by the tenant, while others should not. The questions that are relevant to making this decision include the following:

  • what risks are inherent in the repair to be performed?
  • could the tenant be injured by performing the repair?
  • how intrusive to the property is the repair?
  • does the repair require special skills to perform correctly and safely?
  • what are the potential costs and losses to the landlord if the tenant is negligent in his performance?

Essentially, the landlord should prohibit the tenant from performing the repair when it:

  • requires more skills than what the common lay person can competently perform properly and safely,
  • carries risks (even slight) of injury,
  • involves the repair affects important parts of the property’s function and integrity, and
  • would be costly to fix the tenant’s mistake or negligence.

Examples of minor repairs that the landlord could consider permitting the tenant to perform include some of the following common minor maintenance:

  • replacing air filters
  • replacing fan pull strings
  • changing light bulbs (that are not too high off the ground)
  • replacing consumer-type batteries
  • tightening screws on interior doors and hinges
  • balancing the “feet” on appliances (e.g. dryer)
  • resetting “tripped” GFI breakers
  • replacing outlet covers
  • replacing sink stoppers
  • unclogging minor sink or tub stoppages (complying with manufacturer instructions)
  • performing normal lawn maintenance
  • pressure washing driveways and walkways
  • tightening toilet seats
  • replacing toilet flappers

Examples of minor repairs or maintenance that the landlord should likely not permit the tenant to perform include the following:

  • painting
  • cleaning floors using machinery or harsh chemicals
  • sanding and refinishing surfaces of any kind
  • remodeling to the home or property of any kind
  • pressure washing the house (especially near windows and protecting seams)
  • any service that is inherently dangerous (e.g. cutting heavy trim limbs or trees, heavy lifting, digging deep holes or trenches, climbing ladders, being on the roof or in the attic, operating heavy or construction machinery, etc. )
  • any service that requires licensing or permitting (e.g. plumbing, electrical, HVAC, septic/sewer, etc.)

In short, if the repair or maintenance can’t be performed by the common layperson, landlords should prohibit the tenant from performing the service.

Additional Risks of Allowing Tenants to Handle Major Repairs

There are good reasons not to permit the tenant to perform any service of repair on or to the property except for light and minor repair or maintenance, and here are a few.

Protect the Integrity of the Property

The chances are, a tenant’s standard of acceptable performance is going to be lower than the landlord’s. The landlord expects “x”, but the tenant performs “y”. It is not uncommon that those scenarios result in litigation. It is a very costly road to travel down. To ensure that repairs are performed to professional standards, the landlord needs to hire a professional and skilled vendor to do the job.

Avoid Disagreements About Value of Tenant Services

Oftentimes, when tenants perform services to the rental property, they believe they are providing the landlord a greater service than the landlord may be giving the tenant credit for, which may create disagreements about the value of those services. Of course, this is made even worse when the landlord doesn’t have an attorney to prepare a written agreement specifying the tenant’s obligations regarding the performance of repairs, which leaves the tenant and landlord to argue about who is right.

Tenants who feel they are providing more value to the landlord than the landlord is crediting the tenant for often withholding rent, becoming bad tenants, or eventually make legal claims against the landlord in any subsequent legal action (e.g. eviction, damages). The landlord will do himself or herself a favor by simply not using the tenant to perform repairs to the property.

Avoid Liability

When a landlord permits or requires a tenant to perform repairs and the tenant consequently is injured in the performance of the repair, the landlord may face significant liability. There are a variety of cases in Florida that illustrate the landlord’s liability when the tenant is permitted or required to perform repairs that the tenant had no business performing.

Thus, for any repair that carries even risks of injury—however slight they may be—the landlord should prohibit the tenant from performing those services. Of course, the greater and more serious the risks are, the more adamant the landlord should be about the tenant not performing those services.

Follow Licensing Laws and Ordinances

Many services performed on a home require a state or local license by the person performing the job and require permitting for the job to be performed. Landlords should always comply with those laws and ordinances. While a landlord may be tempted to use a “competent” tenant whom they “trust” to perform services that should be performed by a licensed person and should be permitted by the governing authority, the landlord faces great risks of liability for permitting or requiring a tenant who is not so licensed to perform services on the property.


Landlords have too much to lose by “cutting corners” for repairs. Repairs should be performed by professionals and licensed persons as the job dictates. Landlords should allow tenants to perform repairs to the property, but only if the repair is light and minor, can be performed by a common lay person, does not carry significant loss if the tenant is negligent in performance, does not carry inherent, dangerous risks, and does not require special skills or license. Sticking to this rule will help landlords avoid significant liability in their rental business.

Property Management Law Solutions, LLC is a Florida law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant law and is a landlord-only law firm. We provide statewide services including evictions, consultation plans, education and training, membership plans, lease agreement plans and more. If you are a landlord or property manager, contact us today or subscribe to one of our online membership plans.