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Guidance for renters: When to call your landlord

Whether you're living in a college dorm, a rental home or an apartment, always let the landlord know immediately about any problem involving damage or potential damage
Whether you're living in a college dorm, a rental home or an apartment, always let the landlord know immediately about any problem involving damage or potential damage
Sandy Wallace

As a new school year begins for college students everywhere, many students will become renters for the first time. Although many colleges require first-year students to live on campus, some colleges allow students of any age to live off campus.

Whether you're a millennial moving into your first apartment, the parent of a college student or a retiree downsizing, it's important to know when to call your landlord
Sandy Wallace

A recent survey from Rent.com asks renters why they call their landlords. Rent.com surveyed 1,000 renters across the nation to find out how satisfied they are with their apartment or building’s maintenance support as well as to uncover some of the top reasons why renters call their landlords.

The most important thing to remember is that, although you call your apartment home, your landlord owns the property. You should inform your landlord immediately about anything involving damage or potential damage.

Whether the damage involves water leaking from the roof, an overflowing toilet, a broken window, a hole in the wall or a carpet that's damaged by a spill, call your landlord.

If there's a problem that can easily be resolved without the landlord, try to resolve on your own. This includes tasks like changing a light bulb or furnace filter or moving furniture around.

The top thing renters said they would be most embarrassed to call their landlord to fix was a clogged toilet. It also happened to be the top reason renters had to call their landlord for maintenance. Try pulling up on the toilet handle several times if the water level is rising to keep the toilet from overflowing. Our advice to renters of any age is swallow the embarrassment and make the call for this problem if you can't quickly resolve the issue to avoid water damage.

Another reason many renters call their landlords is because they are locked out of their apartment. This is especially prominent among millennials. Forty-six percent of those surveyed who have locked themselves out of their apartment were age 18 to 32. Our advice to renters is to leave a spare key with a friend who lives nearby. Plan ahead so you won't have to make the call to your landlord for this problem.

Although parents worry about their children living on their own, they are often most concerned about daughters living alone. Although some female renters call maintenance for simple problems including changing a light bulb, one in four female renters surveyed said they have never had to call their maintenance staff to fix common household issues in their apartment such as unclogging a toilet, changing a light bulb or removing a rat or mouse.

Our advice for parents is to teach their daughters and sons to perform simple maintenance tasks including changing a light bulb, moving furniture or changing a furnace filter. As for the mouse or rat removal, renters should let their landlord know there's a problem either before or after removing the mouse since mice or rats will damage the property.

An overwhelming 78 percent of renters do not tip their general building maintenance staff when they provide routine maintenance. Those who do tip generally tip $10 or less. Those who tip generally tip their doorman or concierge. Only 18 percent believe it's appropriate to tip their landlord. If your landlord goes above and beyond, helping with small tasks, feel free to tip or provide a suitable gift at the holidays. Millennials are more likely than those age 33 and older to tip their maintenance staff.

While 79 percent of renters are aware that their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors need to be checked annually, they are less aware of other annual maintenance tasks including flushing hot water heaters, oven cleaning, sealing tile grout and cleaning of dishwasher drain bins.

Sixty-five percent of renters believe they must receive approval from their landlord before hiring a service professional to perform maintenance on their apartment. More than 60% of renters feel the most comfortable having their building staff assess and fix things around their apartment. Our advice is to check your lease and ask your landlord whether it's required to have the maintenance staff assess the problem before you fix it.

Although only 44 percent of those who took the survey were completely satisfied with their current apartment maintenance, more than a quarter of respondents were not willing to pay more for better service.

Parents will always worry about their children, whether they are toddlers or young adults. Teaching your children the basics of living on their own will help give them the confidence they need to perform simple tasks on their own and make the phone call to their landlord when it's necessary.