Managing the Relationship Between Maintenance, Renters and Landlords

When it’s cold outside, the worst thing that can happen is if your property suddenly has air leaks or faulty heating. 

As a tenant, what would you do and who would you approach for issues such as these? Air leaks can result in higher electric bills by using more energy to heat the home, and heating issues will result in less energy savings and less habitable spaces. 

Who’s responsible for different maintenance tasks inside a rental property — the tenant or the landlord? We’ll explore that question in detail, so keep reading to learn more.

Types of Tenancy Agreements

Knowing the types of tenancy agreements as a tenant will allow you to hold your landlord legally responsible to provide certain services. As a landlord, knowing the fine print of your rental agreements will give you an understanding of what you will need to provide for your tenants.

This knowledge will prevent the possibility of legal repercussions, whether you’re the tenant or the landlord. 

There are two main types of rental agreements: tenancy based on a lease, and tenancy-at-will. 

Tenancy Based on Lease

The first type is when someone’s tenancy takes place based on a lease agreement. A lease agreement will specify a certain period of time that someone will be renting the place, which could range from a few months to a year or more.

During the time of the lease term, the rental fee will remain the same. The landlord is not allowed to evict the tenant unless the tenant’s actions directly breach the existing agreement. 


When it comes to a tenancy-at-will arrangement, there is no specific time period determined. This means that the agreement will last as long as the tenant and the landlord would like to engage with each other. The paperwork is less complicated, and sometimes there isn’t even a formal written agreement. 

Under this scenario, the tenant will pay a specified amount each month for as long as the arrangement suits both parties. This means the rental fee can change at any point, as long as the tenants are given a 30-days notice.

Either the landlord or the tenant can decide to cancel the agreement with a 30-days notice. Different states have different laws, however, so be sure to check the local rental laws in your area.

Obligations of Tenants and Landlords

No matter the agreement, there are several obligations that both parties must adhere to. On the side of the tenant, they have to be responsible for paying their rental fees according to the agreement. They will also have to follow the rules that were agreed upon with the landlord. 

The tenant also has the right to occupy the apartment for as long as their lease lasts, as long as they don’t breach the agreement. Generally, the landlord can only enter the premises sparingly and only under circumstances agreed upon by the tenant.This varies state by state. 

The landlord also has a few other responsibilities. They have to provide a livable property, meaning they have to follow their State Sanitary Code. At the same time, they have to provide suitable living conditions, which includes things like providing proper heating according to state laws. 

Anti-discrimination laws dictate that landlords are not allowed to reject tenants on the basis of race, gender identity, income source, and more.

Terms Rental Agreements Must Have

While a landlord will have more authority in crafting the specifics of the rental agreement, there are certain aspects that they are not allowed to include by law. This includes making tenants pay for maintenance issues. 

The rental agreement must include the following information:

  • Name, address and contact details of the owner
  • The person that tenants can give important documents to, such as complaints or formal notices
  • Details of the security deposit

Rental agreements cannot include terms such as: 

  • Requiring the tenant to pay for maintenance
  • Preventing the tenant from joining a tenants’ union
  • Requiring tenants to pay a late fee if their rental payment is one day late

Under Massachusetts law, the amount of time before a tenant incurs a late fee is typically 30 days.

Landlord Responsibilities for Maintenance

The landlord has the responsibility to ensure that a tenant can live comfortably on the premises. This includes providing the necessary infrastructure such as a working heating system with adequate heat. While the tenant can be asked to pay for the costs of heating, the system should be in place for them to access.

If a tenant experiences major problems that require repairs, landlords are usually expected to deliver by providing maintenance support. This includes issues with air leaks and faulty heating. 

What Happens if Landlords Don’t Pay for Air Leaks Maintenance

Regardless of the agreement between tenant and landlord, landlords must be the ones to provide payment for major maintenance issues. 

If a landlord doesn’t deliver, most states will provide tenants with certain options. This will include the ability of tenants to withhold their rent. If they have to fix the maintenance issue themselves, they might be allowed to deduct the cost from their rental fees (this is called repair and deduct). Tenants should always check in with their landlord to ensure that they have the authority to move forward with any changes to the property. 

Otherwise, the tenant can also explore the possibility of calling in health inspectors. This is a valid option if they feel that their health and safety are seriously endangered by the lack of provision from the landlord. The tenant can also file a lawsuit against the landlord. 

Maintenance Obligations for Tenants and Landlords

A tenant is the one who will suffer from the effects of major repair needs, such as air leaks and lack of suitable heating. Landlords are required to provide suitable living conditions and must therefore be the ones to pay for maintenance.

This is the responsibility of landlords, no matter the type of rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant. If the landlord fails to follow their obligations, tenants can explore options such as reducing the cost from their rental payments or filing a lawsuit.

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