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Ah, the famous age-old question: who’s responsible for plumbing maintenance? Landlords or tenants? Many generations have given their contribution to resolving this problem in the past. To quote an Allen Ginsberg poem: I saw the best minds of my generation… We’ll stop right there. This isn’t a boring poetry reading, and the question raised at the beginning certainly isn’t something great thinkers have struggled with for centuries. Although, since you’re reading this text, you might wonder: really, who’s responsible for plumbing maintenance? You might’ve encountered some problems in your new apartment, or maybe you’re checking out your options before you move in. Whatever’s the case – we’re here to help you out. Stay tuned for some helpful info.


Your first thought might be: well, the landlord is responsible for its tenants’ quality of living; therefore, he’s accountable for anything that goes wrong with plumbing. That could be the truth. But, there’s a catch. In most states, the landlord is responsible for hiring someone to take care of plumbing emergencies. Is a leaky tap an emergency? Probably not. What classifies as an emergency is a question to ponder (consider checking your state law). For example, if you notice there’s no running water, that’s undoubtedly an emergency. The landlord is definitely responsible for that one. In most cases, you’ll find these problems classified as emergencies:


  • Serious leaks in your bathroom or kitchen;
  • Damaged, non-working water heater;
  • Burst water pipes;
  • Toilet with an active overflow.
Landlords are definitely responsible for resolving a plumbing emergency. A leaking tap probably doesn't fit into that category. Check your state law.
Landlords are definitely responsible for resolving a plumbing emergency. A leaking tap probably doesn’t fit into that category. Check your state law.

Can the landlord also be responsible for minor repairs?

There isn’t a straight answer to this one. You might want to check the lease agreement and see if you can find the solution there. If the problem you’ve encountered is somehow listed in the agreement, and if the landlord’s responsibility is evident, you have your answer. Otherwise, if the issue isn’t a subject of the lease agreement, you’ll need to check state real estate laws. Some of them have repair and deduct statutes. These rules make the landlord deduct the repair cost (paid by the tenant) from the monthly rent. A quick tip: there are some repairs (even though they look minor) you shouldn’t try to do by yourself. For example, low water pressure is an issue that pros should handle.


Let’s say you’ve made a deal with the landlord. He’ll deduct the repair costs from the rent for the next month. Now imagine this scenario: your landlord’s antique kitchen table gets damaged in the process. We guess you know who’s responsible for that. To ensure this doesn’t happen, consider hiring experts such as those at and see if they can do something to help you store valuable items during the process.

It's very important to store valuable things somewhere they can't be damaged while the renovation process enfolds. The best way, of course, is to rent storage space.
It’s very important to store valuable things somewhere they can’t be damaged while the renovation process enfolds. The best way, of course, is to rent storage space.


It might be better if we mentioned this earlier, but before you quote the law and everything, see if talking to your landlord can seal the deal. Keeping a good relationship with your landlord is something that will guarantee you peace of mind when plumbing issues (or any other issues with the apartment you’re renting) occur. Also, it really isn’t pleasurable to stay in an apartment where the owner acts indifferent. There’s no need to be super-formal or something. Of course, if talking doesn’t get you what you think you legally deserve, then quoting the law is the way to go. But, as we’ve noted at the beginning, it shouldn’t be your first option.


In this paragraph, we’ll pinpoint some of the rights tenants have when renting in Chicago. For example, the landlord can’t evict you without a judge’s order and must take care of a pest infestation when it occurs. Also, you shouldn’t worry that he will come unannounced. What about plumbing maintenance? Suppose the tenants (or their guests) are not responsible for the damage done. In that case, landlords are obliged to take responsibility in accordance with the City of Chicago’s Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (commonly known as CRLTO). Make sure you check that out. In other words: be familiar with your rights. A well-informed tenant is a good tenant. As if you already didn’t know that, right?

Know your rights! Being well-informed is a must nowadays. If you're a Chicago resident, consult the CRLTO.
Know your rights! Being well-informed is a must nowadays. If you’re a Chicago resident, consult the CRLTO


Hopefully, there won’t be a reason for that. Most landlords will quickly resolve the issue you’re dealing with. If, for some reason, the landlord ignores fixing the problem, you have all the rights in the world to mention a potential legal action (after you consult the lease agreement or the state law, of course). But, as we’ve already said, that scenario is really not so popular. You’ll rarely stumble upon a landlord who will make you want to take legal action. 


That’s all, folks! Hopefully, we’re closer than ever to find the answer to the question of who’s obliged to hire professionals for plumbing maintenance. The best way to sum up this article is: know your rights! Make sure to check the lease agreement, consult the state’s real estate law, and before you start thinking about taking legal action – talk to your landlord. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a slim chance you’ll need to go to court because your toilet is overflowing. Being diplomatic and, at the same time, well-informed is a recipe for success!

Guest Contributor: Sophia Perry