When To Call The Landlord: A First-Time Renter's Guide To Apartment Living

Are you living in your first apartment and wondering just how this independent living thing works? It's an exciting time, living on your own and navigating the world of self-sufficiency that comes with being a real adult. There's a lot of freedom you're only just experiencing for the first time. You probably also have a lot of questions about living on your own. Some things you will have to ask your parents or older friends about, or figure out as you go along. Other things have clear-cut answers, such as when to call your landlord.

It's natural to not want to be a bother and to try to avoid calling your landlord if you can help it. Yet, some situations absolutely require your landlord's assistance. If you're not sure if a situation with your apartment warrants landlord intervention, use this guide to help you know when it's okay to call (no matter what time of day or night it might be).

1. There Is a Plumbing Emergency

A plumbing emergency may only inconvenience you, or it may damage the whole building. Either way, it is the responsibility of the landlord to take care of it. Most landlords have the contact information for emergency plumbers who work all hours, and will send someone out right away once you make the call alerting your landlord of the problem. Some typical plumbing emergencies that require a call to your landlord include:

  • Burst pipes (these could flood the whole building, or cause water damage in other apartments besides yours)
  • Clogged sinks or toilets
  • Lack of hot water
  • Leaky faucets
  • Sewer backups

If your landlord doesn't answer when you call about a plumbing emergency, you should call one of the emergency plumbing services that works in your area. You can't let a plumbing situation go while you're waiting for your landlord to call you back. Your landlord can be billed directly for the plumber's visit, or can reimburse you for taking the initiative to protect the building.

2. The Roof Is Leaking

If you live under someone else's apartment and the roof is leaking, that means a plumbing emergency is occurring in that apartment. If your upstairs neighbors don't call, you should. If you're on the top floor, a leaky roof implies structural problems with the building. According to FindLaw.com, landlords are responsible for keeping a building in livable condition. This includes maintaining the structural integrity of the building and fixing it when it shows signs of wear.

Even if your landlord doesn't come out right away to look at the leaky roof, they must come as soon as possible and examine the problem. They must then make arrangements to get it fixed. Call your landlord as soon as you notice a leaky roof, because the longer you let it go, the more damaged the roof may become. You don't want it falling in on you because you didn't call the landlord.

3. Your Refrigerator or Other Important Appliance Breaks

As long as you are not the one responsible for breaking the appliance (in which case, you may need to fix it yourself, or replace it), your landlord must take care of broken appliances. After all, your apartment won't be very livable if your refrigerator breaks and spoils your food, your stove breaks and you can't cook anything, or your air conditioning breaks and leaves you dependent on fans in the middle of summer.

Call your landlord as soon as you notice a large appliance isn't working. Landlords are required to come out in a reasonable amount of time to either replace the appliance or bring in a professional to fix it.


You want your first landlord to consider you a good tenant, and this may make you reluctant to call when things go wrong. Don't just try to live with these inconveniences, however. Just as you have a responsibility to be a good tenant, your landlord has a responsibility to keep the place in good condition. Call if something is broken, and make sure your landlord is upholding their end of the landlord/tenant relationship.