Normal wear and tear is expected when living in an apartment. As a renter, your landlord or property manager is responsible for many common apartment maintenance issues and repairs. However, it can be difficult to determine which maintenance issues constitute an emergency and which do not. 

The responsibility of paying for repairs is another common source of confusion—in some cases, the landlord will cover the costs, while there are other situations that it’s the renter’s responsibility. 

What is considered emergency maintenance in an apartment? 

The definition of emergency maintenance will vary depending on your lease and the renter protection laws where you live. This is why it is so important to read your lease thoroughly and understand which maintenance services are available before signing. 

Below are some common apartment maintenance issues, as well as the difference between emergency and non-emergency maintenance to help clear up that confusion. 

Emergency Maintenance

Emergency maintenance is any type of maintenance that must be resolved immediately to prevent health and safety issues. Apartment communities will conduct this maintenance at any time of day, on weekends or on holidays. Your lease will likely outline an initial apartment maintenance emergency list for common issues that may come up. 

Life-threatening safety issues such as a gas leak, a broken lock or window or a broken heater are emergency maintenance concerns. Issues that could make the apartment unlivable, such as a broken refrigerator or toilet, are typically considered emergencies, as are issues that could cause serious damage if not addressed immediately, such as a leak, broken drain, or backed-up sewer.

Temporary Fixes

A temporary fix happens when a permanent maintenance solution isn’t currently available. Temporary fixes may be used until the landlord or property manager has the time or resources to conduct a more thorough repair. 

For example, if a heater breaks overnight, management might provide space heaters until a repair specialist can come the next morning. Or, if a landlord needs to order a specific part to fix your refrigerator, they could provide a used, replacement fridge until the part is delivered. 

Additionally, a larger property manager may need to conduct temporary repairs if their maintenance team is currently preoccupied or if the repairs will inconvenience the entire building. For instance, a leaky pipe may be simply patched until a water shutoff can be scheduled so the affected section pipe can be replaced. 

Non-Emergency Maintenance Issues

Many common apartment maintenance issues are not emergencies, but will still need to be addressed to keep the apartment in good condition. Non-emergency maintenance issues are typically addressed within a few days. 

Any issue that doesn’t cause an immediate health or safety risk would fall into the category of non-emergency maintenance. Some examples of this include broken cabinets and doors, a slow-draining sink or shower, minor appliance damage or minor leaks. 

How long does emergency maintenance take? 

Most emergency maintenance situations are handled within a few hours to a full day depending on the issue. Some problems require more time to fix than others — for example, a new toilet installation takes just an hour or two, while repairing a heater or resolving a gas leak can take all day or longer. 

The exact time frame for an emergency maintenance repair will also depend on the issue you are having and the resources available to your property manager. If you live in a small town with only one plumber, your maintenance services might take longer than they would in a big city with several service providers to choose from. 

Common Apartment Maintenance Issues

Here are a few of the most common apartment maintenance issues to be on the lookout for.

  • Broken appliances. This includes refrigerators, stoves, dishwashers, hot water heaters and laundry equipment
  • Broken HVAC system. This could mean a non-functioning heater or air conditioner. You may need to use space heaters or fans to keep your apartment at a comfortable temperature until the issue is resolved. 
  • Leaks. Leaks can happen in many places throughout your apartment. Some leaks are easy to fix, while others require professional assistance. 
  • Clogged toilet or drain. Everyday toilet clogs can be easily fixed with a plunger and may be worth taking care of on your own. Clogged sinks or clogged toilets that don’t respond to plunging will require a maintenance technician. Keep in mind that if the clog was caused by your action or negligence, you may be responsible for the cost of repairs.
  • Pest infestation. Unfortunately, pest infestations can happen even when you keep your apartment clean, and will typically require extermination services to remove. Some extermination services are paid for by the management company and some are charged back to residents. Read your lease to learn which is which. 
  • Broken electrical outlets/lights. A broken outlet is not only annoying, but it can cause additional issues if not repaired in a timely manner. 
  • Broken drywall. Drywall issues tend to happen as a result of an impact. It can break fairly easily with the right amount of force. 
  • Clogged garbage disposal. This often happens when something ends up in the disposal that shouldn’t. However, it’s also possible for garbage disposals to stop working due to normal wear and tear. 
  • Broken smoke detectors. Your landlord is required to provide functioning smoke detectors in accordance with local laws, and tampering with a smoke detector is never advised. Always contact your maintenance team if your smoke detector stops working or alerts you that the battery is low. 

Repairs at Southern Management Communities 

At Southern Management, we will repair anything that was in the apartment before you move in, even down to the light bulbs. Any furniture or other items you have brought into the apartment are your responsibility to repair. 

We will always make necessary apartment repairs, but if the damage was caused by your actions or neglect, you may be responsible for the cost of the repair. For example, if you drop something into the toilet that causes it to break, you may be responsible for the cost of the new toilet and plumbing services. However, if the clog happens as a result of normal wear and tear, you would not be responsible for these costs. 

Responsive Maintenance Service with Southern Management

Understanding the types of maintenance services available is very important as a renter. At Southern Management, we offer efficient and thorough maintenance services at all of our communities. 

If you’re looking to make your new home in the Baltimore or Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas, Southern Management can help. We offer a variety of options for different budgets and locations. Explore our communities to learn more!