Is the Landlord Responsible for Appliance Repair?

When an appliance in your rental stops working, your first action should be to read what your lease or rental agreement says about repairs.

By , Attorney UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated 10/31/2022

When you moved into your apartment, you did a walk-through with the landlord and tested all the appliances, including the refrigerator, washer and dryer, and dishwasher. They were all a bit old, but worked just fine. Now, three months into your lease, the refrigerator has broken, and all your food is going bad. So you're wondering: Who's responsible for fixing or replacing a broken appliance—the landlord or the tenant?

Here are some reasons why it's likely that your landlord is on the hook to repair the appliance—and some reasons why they might not be.

Situations When the Landlord Is Responsible for Repairing or Replacing Appliances

If your situation sounds like one of the following, you'll want to notify your landlord in writing that the appliance needs maintenance. Check your lease or rental agreement to find out how and where you must deliver your notice. And, ultimately, if your landlord ignores your request, you still have options for getting the repairs made.

Your Lease or Rental Agreement Specifies That the Landlord Will Maintain Appliances

Some leases or rental agreements lay out details about what the landlord will—and will not—maintain. Read your lease or rental agreement carefully to see if it specifically addresses maintenance of appliances. Many landlords don't want tenants to try to fix broken big-ticket items like appliances on their own, and will make sure to prohibit tenant self-help in the lease. If your lease or rental agreement states that the landlord will make repairs, there's no debate.

You Didn't Sign Up for Non-Functional Appliances

Most of the time, when a landlord provides appliances with a rental, they are required to maintain them throughout the tenancy. And, if an appliance can't be repaired, the landlord must replace it with a similar (working) one. This is because there's an implied promise in the lease or rental agreement that the landlord will continue throughout the tenancy to provide the amenities that were present at the beginning of the tenancy.

After all, you signed a lease based on what you saw when you visited the rental, and it's reasonable to expect that those fixtures, appliances, and services will continue to be available as long as you're paying rent. A landlord who doesn't deliver on the promises made at the time of rental isn't upholding their end of the bargain.

A Broken Appliance Might Be a Breach of the Warranty of Habitability

On top of the fact that the landlord wouldn't be providing what was promised at the beginning of the tenancy, the landlord's failure to fix or replace an appliance could be a breach of a state or local law. Most states require landlords to provide safe and habitable rentals, even if the promise to do so isn't written explicitly in the lease. This requirement is known as either a "warranty of habitability" or an "implied warranty of habitability." It's entirely possible that your state or city would consider a failure to provide a working refrigerator or stove, for example, a breach of the warranty of habitability.

In fact, some states' laws specify that failing to maintain appliances that were present at move-in or promised in a written agreement is a breach of the warranty of habitability. For example, in Colorado, if a landlord fails to maintain an appliance, the tenant might have the right to move out (without penalty) if the landlord doesn't repair the issue after notice and the opportunity to fix it. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 38-12-503 and 38-12-507 (2022).)

What to Do When Your Landlord Is Responsible

When all signs point to your landlord being on the hook, take the next step and notify the landlord that there's a problem. Check your lease or rental agreement for any requirements about how to provide notice to your landlord. For example, the lease might require you to contact a property manager regarding repair and maintenance issues.

In addition to following any notice requirements in the lease, you can always call or text your landlord to see if you can get a quick response. Regardless, make sure to follow up in writing, and keep track of all your communications with the landlord.

When the Landlord Is Not Responsible for Fixing Appliances

Landlords generally are not responsible for fixing a broken appliance in a rental when:

  • The appliance belongs to the tenant. If the tenant owns the appliance and brought it into the rental, the tenant is responsible for maintaining it, unless there's a written agreement with the landlord stating otherwise.
  • The tenant broke the appliance. When a tenant's action results in damage to or destruction of an appliance, the tenant usually is responsible for at least the cost of repairing or replacing the appliance. Most landlords don't want the tenant to actually hire a repairperson or purchase a new appliance—rather, the lease will state that the tenant must notify the landlord of any repairs needed, and the cost of remedying the tenant-caused issue will be taken out of the tenant's security deposit. (If the damage occurs mid-tenancy, the tenant will have to replenish the security deposit funds.) And, if the cost of repair or replacement exceeds the security deposit, the tenant will have to pay the landlord for the additional expense.
  • The lease or rental agreement specifically states the tenant is responsible. Although it's rare, some leases or rental agreements will require tenants to make all repairs and replace damaged items throughout the tenancy. This shift of responsibility is most common in rentals of single-family homes (some states' laws allow shifting repair responsibility only in single-family home rentals).

The takeaway here is that if you're concerned about whether you're responsible for repairing or replacing an appliance in your rental, take a close look at your lease or rental agreement. If your lease or rental agreement is silent on the matter, it's most likely your landlord's responsibility.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Landlord-Tenant attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you