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Landlord, Tenant, and Roommate Responsibilities

Learn about your responsibilities as a tenant and the responsibilities of your landlord and any roommate(s).


Your landlord is responsible for:

  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls, including unbroken windows and doors
  • Keeping plumbing or gas facilities in good working order
  • A water supply capable of producing hot and cold running water to appropriate fixtures and connected to a sewage disposal system
  • Maintaining heating facilities in good working order
  • Keeping electrical lighting and wiring in good working order
  • Sanitary building and grounds free from debris, filth, rodents, cockroaches, etc.
  • Adequate garbage receptacles
  • Keeping floors, stairways, and railings in good repair
  • Providing reasonable notice (usually 24 hours) to enter your apartment, unless there is an emergency

Repairs to property:

  • If you need to request a repair from your landlord or property manager, write a signed, dated memo or formal letter, and keep a copy for your records. See a sample first letter of request for repairs (PDF), and a sample second letter of request (PDF).
  • Your landlord has a reasonable time to correct the problem (reasonable response time will differ depending on the nature of the repair).
  • If your landlord neglects or refuses to make the repair within a reasonable time, you have a legal right to get the repair done and deduct the cost from the cost of your rent. This procedure may be used twice in any 12-month period. The cost of the repair must not exceed one month's rent.
  • If your own efforts to get repairs are not effective, try contacting the Building Inspection Department of your city.
    • If you've contacted the Building Inspection Department and your landlord still refuses or neglects to make repairs, you have the right to withhold rent payments. But be careful: the seriousness and duration of the violation are relevant factors. For example, a leaking roof during a rainy season would be considered a violation, but a few ants after the rain would not.

Tenant (you)

A tenant is responsible for:

  • Paying rent on time
  • Keeping the premises clean and undamaged
  • Disposing of garbage and trash properly (unless the landlord has agreed to do this)
  • Using all electrical, gas, and plumbing fixtures properly and keeping them as clean as their condition permits
  • Keeping any person you've permitted on the premises from willfully damaging the premises or the facilities
  • Using each room only for its intended purpose
  • Informing the landlord of all roommate changes

To make sure your experience as a tenant is as enjoyable as possible:

  • Be respectful of your landlord so that conflicts are easily resolved. If you are going to be late paying your rent, contact your landlord, explain the situation, and provide a date when you can pay.
  • Obey the laws of your neighborhood, apartment complex, or homeowner's association.
  • Keep the peace with your neighbors. Excessive noise is a valid reason for eviction.

Your roommate(s)

You and your roommate(s) should:

  • Be careful about sharing expenses for things like refrigerators or furniture. (What will happen when one or more roommates move out?)
  • Decide how monthly bills (utilities, rent, etc.) will be divided and who is responsible for making sure the bill is paid. Keep track of who paid deposits for different utilities.
  • Discuss the division of household duties. A cleaning schedule (dividing chores daily or weekly) is an effective way to do this.
  • Talk about groceries and sharing food. Often, roommates will agree that everyone is responsible for their own grocery shopping, and food is generally not shared.
  • Sign a roommate agreement clarifying responsibilities and setting ground rules for your home.
Questions? Contact Student Legal Services, (858) 534-4374.