We take for granted how important a refrigerator is to our daily lives until it’s taken away from us.
So if your fridge is not working, you have a completely legitimate concern if your landlord is not fixing it promptly.
But how long do they actually have to fix a broken fridge? Unfortunately, the question is not as simple to answer as it seems and the answer depends on your specific situation, including your lease terms as well as state and local laws.
But not to worry – in this article, I am going to address that question and provide you a step by step guide on analyze your situation and determine what your landlord’s obligations are in this regard.
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
If your fridge was included as part of the rental, then the landlord typically has an obligation to fix it. The timeframe for repair will vary depending on the severity of the malfunction, the lease provisions, and state and local laws governing appliance repairs. As a general matter, repairs of this sort should be resolved within 14 to 30 days.
Ok – let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Who’s Responsible For Appliances in Rental Apartments?
As a general matter, refrigerators are not required to be included as part of a rental dwelling, but the practical reality is that many landlords include them as part of the rental property package.
If the landlord has provided the refrigerator and it breaks, in most cases, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix it.
However, if the fridge is not included and the tenant supplied one, then the responsibility for handling repairs to that refrigerator will normally fall on the tenant.
The lease agreement will often indicate which appliances are included with the unit, so you should check it to make sure that your fridge is included as part of the rental arrangement.
What Factors Play Into How Long a Landlord Has to Fix a Fridge?
The Lease Agreement
As mentioned earlier, it is a great idea to read your lease agreement to see what it says about refrigerators. Not only will it likely discuss whether it comes with the unit, it may also spell out who is responsible for repairs and the timeframe for making them.
In my lease agreement, a fridge is included within the list of appliances coming with the unit, but there is also a space for appliances that are provided in “as-is” condition. Those are provided as a courtesy to the tenant, but if it breaks, then the landlord is not required to fix it.
My lease also imposes a general obligation on the landlord to maintain the premises in good repair and tenantable condition and to make repairs not due to the fault or negligence of the tenant. However, it does not specify a timeframe for making such repairs.
Of course, my lease is based on my state’s laws and what is permissible, so it may differ from what your lease provides.
Bottom line: Checking the lease is important and should be your first step, but you must also review your applicable laws to make sure you get the complete picture. On that note…
State and Local Laws
The unfortunate reality is that different states have different laws around landlord-tenant issues, so it is impossible to give a universal answer to whether a landlord is responsible for fixing appliances at all and how quickly they must repair or replace a non-working fridge.
That being said, the general rule seems to be that landlords are responsible for maintaining the premises in a working and habitable condition and that often includes making sure that appliances that were provided are operating properly.
As for the timing of required repairs, we can provide a general guideline around timeframes based on what a good number of states have adopted. As a rule of thumb, you can expect a 14 day to 30 day time window for a landlord to repair a malfunctioning fridge.
But many states indicate that this timeframe may be accelerated if the issue rises to the level of making the premises uninhabitable. Most fridge issues probably don’t get there, but if a state interprets your situation as meeting that standard, you could expect to get much quicker resolution.
Again, the key is to understand your state and local rules around this topic if you want a clear answer.
For your convenience, here’s our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenant laws of your state.
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Note: One important exception to the general rule that landlords are responsible for maintaining appliances they provide is if the tenant is the cause of the malfunction.
In other words if they (or their guests) broke it due to misuse or other bad or negligent conduct, then, obviously, the landlord should not be responsible for repairing the appliance.
Severity of the Problem
Speaking of severity, one of the key factors driving the timeline for repair of a fridge is likely going to be how critical the failure is.
There is a huge difference between a fridge that not working at all or is posing a threat of harm because of serious electrical issues vs. one that has a non-working ice-maker or a shelf that is not fitting quite right.
As a general matter, the bigger the problem, the faster the landlord should try to address it.
Availability of Qualified Techs, Parts and So On
Another factor that plays into how long a repair should take is the availability of appliance technicians.
If your landlord has promptly responded to your request for repair, but if most of the techs are busy and can’t get to it as soon as you’d like, then there’s not much the landlord can do. And even if the tech gets there quickly, the parts could take some time to get delivered, which could further delay the process.
Similarly, if the fridge needs to be replaced altogether, but the delivery pipeline is backed up, that’s likely going to be taken into consideration if a dispute ever arises.
So, while a broken fridge can be a massive inconvenience, if the landlord is acting promptly and doing what he can, but outside factors are causing delays, he’s probably not violating any laws.
Insurance or Warranty Delays
Another factor is if the landlord is calling in the insurance company or warranty company to handle the repair. As you can imagine, claims can take a while to process, so delays can arise due to this.
If you and your landlord are embroiled in a dispute about the fridge, that can obviously also factor into how long it takes to get it fixed. Until the dispute is resolved, the landlord may not feel they are responsible to fix the appliance, which can, if course, delay its eventual repair.
What Should I Do If My Landlord is Not Fixing My Fridge Promptly?
The first thing you should do is contact your landlord to see what is causing the delay. As mentioned above, they may be doing everything right, but delays are due to circumstances beyond his control
If they are actually not on the ball, then you can write a letter notifying them that you alerted them to the problem and they had a reasonable opportunity to fix it, but they did not. Make clear in your letter that you expect them to correct the problem quickly.
Also make sure you keep all evidence supporting this.
If they still do not respond or repair the problem, you have a number of potential legal options. Of course, taking legal remedies can be a bit intimidating – if you want a decent middle of the road approach, contact your local tenant’s rights organization. They are free and there to help and guide you.
But if legal remedies are what’s needed, here are some of the most common ones.
Repair and Deduct
In some states, tenants may use a “repair and deduct” remedy when the landlord is not being responsive (and the problem is serious enough).
Under this solution, a tenant may pay for the repair himself and deduct the cost from the rental payment.
To do this, you must often meet a variety of requirements, including that the repair cannot exceed a certain amount (e.g., more than one month’s rent), the tenant is not at fault for the needed repair, and the landlord was notified of the issue and had a reasonable opportunity to fix it, but did not do so.
Some jurisdictions allow a tenant to withhold rent until a needed repair is made. The requirements to use this remedy are likely going to be similar to the repair and deduct remedy.
I want to warn you that if your state does not allow this, withholding rent can trigger an eviction proceeding against you. You definitely need to do your research before trying to do this.
So there you have it – a comprehensive look at how long a landlord has to fix your fridge and what you can do if they are not responding. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!