Profile picture for user6209668

Our landlord refuses to repair our refrigerator. Who is responsible?

This is the response from the property manager:
"It is standard practice that refrigerators, washers, and dryers are not maintained by the landlord.  This is very common for homes.  Please check your lease, I believe it is item 11."
We were very surprised.  Is it really standard practice that a landlord not maintain appliances?
  • May 18 2012 - Orinda
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Answers (20)

Profile picture for sunnyview
"Since CA landlord/tenant laws are much more strict that WA I would say the landlord's agreement regarding the tenant is responsible to maintain a refrigerator would be voided and any judge would choose in favor of the tenant."

You would be right in some cases, but there are valid, tested leases in CA where specific appliances are named as a convenience only appliances like dryers, washers or fridge that the landlord does not warranty or include as part of the tenancy. They state upfront that they will not be repaired if they break.

In those cases, the tenant is not responsible to repair them for the landlord or to restore function but, if they break they can notify the landlord and have them removed so they can put in their own replacement if they wish. It's their call.

You cannot have that type of tenant agreement hold up with essential appliances like the stove, heater, water heater or in some areas the air conditioner that must be present for basic habitability. Most courts will not allow that even with a signed agreement since they are essential.
  • March 28
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Profile picture for imapuddle
It's been awhile since the last comment on this topic, but I'm posting my comment just in case anyone new stumbles across it.  

Anyone can (and does) create their own lease/rental agreements without ensuring it complies with state law.  People that know nothing about their states law do this all the time and they lose if it goes to court.  If the lease/agreement has wording that conflicts with the law it is not valid and will not hold up in court.  There is no way you can write something that conflicts with the law, and expect the law and court system to support you.  I don't know if a judge would void the entire document, but if a specific area that is contested conflicts with state law the judge would void it.  I live in Washington State and our law is very specific RCW 59.18.060 regarding appliances.  It states that any appliances the landlord furnished in the unit is their responsibility to maintain, not the tenants.  Since CA landlord/tenant laws are much more strict that WA I would say the landlord's agreement regarding the tenant is responsible to maintain a refrigerator would be voided and any judge would choose in favor of the tenant, but you should check your state laws to confirm.  
  • March 28
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You would have to check the verbiage in the rental agreement to determine if the owner waived any obligations. If not, usually he would be responsible for any major issue with the rental unit.
  • June 21 2012
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Profile picture for sunnyview
"In the absence of a written agreement, the CA housing code says very clearly that the landlord is responsible for wear-and-tear maintenance on anything in the unit, not the tenant. "

You are right, problem is the original poster specified in their post that there was a written agreement concerning appliances in the lease. If the landlord spelled out that specific appliances were the tenant's responsibility or not part of their responsibility, the tenant is stuck with whatever they legally agreed to.

Point is there is a rental agreement that mentions the fridge. Do you feel that the lease is binding if that appliance is mentioned or do you think the tenant would win the repair cost in court counter to the lease?
  • June 21 2012
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Profile picture for laguna_greg
Hi Pasadenan,

"As for Microwave ovens?  I can't imagine that a landlord would provide one of those as part of a lease."

All the rental units I've owned in CA had built-in over-the-range microwave ovens/ventilator hoods.  Since it was a permanent, built-in fixture, it seemed ridiculous to make the tenant responsible for maintenance.  Which hasn't been a problem anyway, as I've only had one break so far.

I don't put either a fridge or a washer/dryer in my units.  Tenants can bring their own, and take care of them as their own.  They are certainly not going to take care of your stuff better than theirs!

As a rule, I don't make tenants responsible for maintaining the dishwasher, or the stove/oven, the HVAC or the automatic garage door opener.  Do you guys do that?

And as I said, I don't think it's very feasible legally.
  • June 21 2012
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
If "maintenance" means the tenant needs to clean the lint filter after each dryer load; of course it is the tenant's responsibility.

If "maintenance" means the tenant is responsible for replacing the tensioning pully on the dryer owned by the landlord, as a landlord, I don't want the tenant doing that work, and I don't want to be liable if the tenant is cut while trying to do that work.

As for Microwave ovens?  I can't imagine that a landlord would provide one of those as part of a lease.  Those are usually considered "personal property", and they can easily bring their own.  And even in offices, the company makes the employees that use it responsible for cleaning it.  It is not someone else's responsibility to keep it clean.  And if it stops working?  The back of the unit says "no serviceable parts", "danger high voltage", and "to be opened by authorized service people only".  So how would a tenant "service" it?  Replace it with a used model that costs 1/10 of the one provided?  Send it to a non-qualified technician who might get it to work, but it might burn the house down due to improper protection?

I can't imagine a lease that stated the landlord was responsible to clean and defrost the freezer and empty the condensate drip pan every two weeks regardless of how messy and careless a tenant is.  Nor could I imagine a lease that stated the landlord was responsible to move the refrigerator once a month and clean the kitchen floor entirely.

Some things are "common sense".  And the contract will usually prevail if it is spelled out and both parties agree.
  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
So. laguna_Greg:  I guess the Ca landlord/tenant guide and the lease signed by the tenant mean nothing?   That's a pity, anarchy doesn't work very well in the long run.
  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for laguna_greg
Guys,

The assertion of a "standard practice" is bogus in this regard.  In the absence of a written agreement, the CA housing code says very clearly that the landlord is responsible for wear-and-tear maintenance on anything in the unit, not the tenant.  Unless the landlord can prove the tenant "broke" the widget, the landlord is responsible for it.  If there is a legal standard, it's that.  This lease provision happens to be the "standard" of how this Orinda property owner does business.  That's all.  And some of you guys, apparently. Do you like going to court and defending your contract provisions in front of a judge? I don't.

Regardless of what this lease says, this a wonderfully grey area that I would not want to defend.  The tenets of contract law still apply- you have to give consideration to get consideration.  And it has to be a fair trade in the eyes of the law (read: judge).  Please don't let me stop you if you think your arrangements are fair and equitable.  All I'm trying to say is that judges set aside contracts all the time, entirely at their discretion, and in both directions. And it seems way too easy to argue about just what or how much is fair in this instance.

Myself, I don't put any appliances in my rentals that I don't want to maintain.  And I certainly don't make the tenant responsible for their upkeep.
  • June 06 2012
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Landlords do not have sole authority to decide that.

That's true. The judge can tell the tenant the appliances are their responsibility if it's written in the rental agreement and both sides signed the rental agreement. Unless there is language in the rental agreement which is specifically prohibited and usurped by state and federal law, the document will stand up in court.
  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for sunnyview
"I would not want to get into a shouting match in front of a small claims court judge in either scenario, which is where this dispute will end up."

Me neither since in this case the tenant would likely lose since the listed additional appliances are spelled out in the rental contract on the tenant responsibility side. Any landlord with a tight contract would sleep easy the night before court on this case.

As long as the contract signed by both parties signed falls within CA law, the landlord can specify that you have to fertilize the roses every month or take down Christmas lights by January 15. Anything that falls outside the law in the contract may be up for debate and grey areas are often assumed to go against the person who drew the contract. However, it seems unlikely that would happen in this case since the item to be repaired is not a non functional stove or heater. 
  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
@laguna greg:  according the CA landlord./tenant guide (linked twice in this thread), the landlord can make the tenant responsible for the appliances.  The original poster has told the tenant that they are responsible and put it in their lease.   The tenant signed the lease, therefore, with a  signature apparently agreed to this provision.

So, are you suggesting the tenant should ignore the Ca landlord/tenant guidelines and the lease the tenant signed?    I'm not a lavvyer, but your proposal doesn't sound like something that would hold up in court.



  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for laguna_greg
@Wetdawgs-

Yours- "Therefore, as your landlord decided that it is the tenant's responsibility, the repair falls on your shoulders"

Landlords do not have sole authority to decide that.
  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for laguna_greg
Jeepers, Guys.  What wimpy answers! 

In CA, the landlord is responsible for normal wear & tear maintenance on everything in a residential rental unit if there is no written rental agreement.  So if the fridge, range or the microwave oven goes out, and the tenant did not take a hammer to it, then the landlord is responsible for repair/replacement.  Contracts can provide for other arrangements that go outside the law, but they have to offer due consideration for the burden they place on the other party.  Does your lease do that?  Have you bothered to talk to a lawyer about defending the fancy contract in court?

In other words, you can't just make reidential tenants pay for repairs, even though it's in the lease, unless you offer them some kind of consideration in return.  That's the nature of contract law.

I would not want to get into a shouting match in front of a small claims court judge in either scenario, which is where this dispute will end up.  The judge will probably side with the tenant if the landlord does not have really scrupulous paperwork showing negligence by the tenant.  Also, I really would not want to dispute what the law says if the judge questions the validity of the lease terms.  Again, if the agreement contradicts the law, then there has to be fair consideration offered contractually for the difference or the judge can just void your fancy lease right then and there.

So three bits of advice:

1- Use a lease that conforms to the law. Don't use a fancy lease/rental contract that appears to put an undue burden on the tenant, and
2- Don't put appliances in your rental that you don't want to maintain.
3- If you have to use a fancy lease, have an attorney look it over before having a tenant sign it.
  • June 06 2012
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
  • June 04 2012
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Profile picture for Blue Nile
Wetdawgs -

Can you repost the link to the CA landlord/tenant handbook?  The link you posted is back to this thread.
  • June 04 2012
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
@Joseph:  Did you read the question?  What lawyer would support voiding a lease when the landlord complies with the terms in the lease?


  • June 04 2012
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[Hotlink removed by Zillow moderator. Please see our Good Neighbor Policy for more information.]if I were you I would write the landlord a certified letter stating of the refrigerator is not fixed within a certain amount of time that you will VOID your lease.
  • June 04 2012
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Profile picture for candace92
As a landlord myself, I do not repair appliances.  The reason is I have had renters who burn out the heating element in a drier because they did not empty the lint trap, I have had microwaves die due to microwaving metal and refrigerators leak (hoses cracking to icemaker) due to movement of the applianance.  My lease agreement very clearly states that maintenance is the renters responsibility and I explain proper use of each during the walk thru.
  • May 19 2012
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Profile picture for wetdawgs
It sounds like it is time to pull out your lease and read carefully what you signed.     In the CA landlord tenant guide page 40 in the section called "responsibility for other types of repairs", it describes that appliances as amenities and that either landlord or tenant could be responsible (I'm assuming it implies as called out in the lease).   Therefore, as your landlord decided that it is the tenant's responsibility, the repair falls on your shoulders.


  • May 18 2012
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Whether or not it's standard practice is irrelevant if it's in your lease.

Personally I would expect that the landlord maintain the appliances, but I guess your landlord feels differently.
  • May 18 2012
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