One of the benefits of apartment living is that you don't have to pay for repairs yourself (unless you cause the damage, of course). But, the downside is that you may have to wait for the repair to be performed, depending on the nature of it. The good news in all this is that laws in your state apply to these situations, and you can also point to the language in your lease agreement. So, how long does your landlord actually have to perform the needed repairs? Well, first of all, you've got to know if the repair qualifies as an emergency or not. Once you ascertain that, you can have a better idea of what to expect. Here's a guide for you that generally applies in most situations.

Emergency Repairs

Not everything is an emergency when it comes to repairs to your rental unit. Think habitability (can you continue living there?) and safety (does the issue in need of repair impose danger to you and your family?). Also, keep in mind, emergency repairs don't mean fixing fire or flood damage to the unit itself. Emergency repairs fall into a specific set of issues. Your landlord typically will have between three and seven days to fix these issues, but you'll need to reference your state's landlord-tenant laws. You usually won't see emergency repairs going beyond ten days in terms of turnaround time, but know your rights. Here's a list of typical emergency repairs, but it's by no means a complete list:

  • No electricity
  • No heat during the winter
  • No hot water
  • No drinkable water
  • Broken plumbing (clogged toilet, sink, shower/tub)
  • Broken refrigerator (landlord supplied appliance)
  • Broken or missing smoke/carbon monoxide detector
  • Pest infestation (roaches, rodents, bedbugs)
  • Mold or asbestos

Non-Emergency Repairs

There are issues you'd like fixed, but none of them fall into the "Emergency Repairs" categories in the aforementioned section. These repairs can be categorized as "Non-Emergency" or "Non-Critical". Nevertheless, you can't wait forever to have these repairs performed, so it's important to know what you can expect. Typically, these kinds of repairs should be performed in less than thirty (30) days. This means it's not imperative for your landlord to take care of these things immediately but in a reasonable timeframe. Keep in mind, these issues don't cause your rental to be unliveable or unsafe, but they can be annoying and cause problems for your level of comfort. Here are some examples:

  • Leaky faucets
  • Noisy heaters/radiators
  • Broken bedroom/bathroom doors
  • Broken cabinet or closet doors
  • Broken dishwashers/microwaves/ovens
  • Non-functioning overhead lights
  • Torn window screens
  • Faulty window blinds
  • Broken shower door
  • Cracked floor tiles

Normal Wear and Tear Items

This category pretty much captures everything else. None of these items are critical, nor are they really repairs, per se. They don't affect day-to-day functionality or living, but they can be nuisances over time if they aren't rectified. These constitute normal wear and tear that occur during regular usage. These items should be taken care of, but it could be a hassle to get landlords to spend the money to do so. This is why it's especially important to know the lease language and state laws. Here are some examples of wear and tear items.

  • Worn carpet or rugs
  • Flaking paint or scratches
  • Chipped tiles or porcelain in the bathroom/kitchen
  • Ripped or faded window treatments
  • Poorly functioning/corroded faucet handles
  • Cracked countertops

It's important for you to do your research on state landlord-tenant laws so you know your rights when it comes to asking for and expecting repairs. Also, remember that being courteous and kind when submitting requests to your landlord or rental office is just as important. It can make the difference between getting the repairs done quickly or having to invoke lease language or state laws just to get your landlord to fix them. It's also up to you to report the issues in a timely fashion. Don't wait a week after your unit's fridge died before you report it. Do these things, and you'll find yourself in a good situation where repairs are taken care of when needed, and you can maintain a good relationship with your landlord.