Whether you're moving into a luxury building with lots of amenities or something modest that you’re sharing with a roommate (or perhaps even two), maintenance issues are a fact of life for apartment dwellers. Whether it’s something simple like a garbage disposal that just stops working, a light bulb that flickers or doesn’t turn on, or cracked paint — all apartments have maintenance issues.
However, if you’re new to apartment life, you might not know how to handle these issues. Are there some things you can fix yourself? Can you prevent major issues before they start or at least nip them in the bud? How do you know when to call your landlord?
Here are ten apartment maintenance tips you need to need to know about. From what to do to get your security deposit back, to essentials you should keep on hand, and how to know when to call for help. You might just want to screenshot these.
1) TAKE PHOTOS WHEN YOU MOVE IN
When move to your new apartment, there is no way everything will be 100 percent perfect. From cracked tiles to carpet stains — document any issues when you get in and notify your landlord. This will save you time, money, and energy when you move out.
2) KNOW HOW TO UNCLOG A DRAIN
Handyman and Task Rabbit spokesperson Dustin Houston tells me it’s crucial to know how to unclog a drain yourself. “The most common maintenance occurrences I see in apartments are usually clogs or drain issues," Houston says.
"Sometimes it’s as simple as using a plastic disposable drain snake to remove hair and debris from the drain, but sometimes it’s more complicated than that. For instance, drainage issues like clogs or leaks in the tub or sink can be related to a failing hardware piece, which may need to be replaced by the landlord.”
If plunging or snaking a drain doesn't work, notify your landlord.
3) DON’T NEGLECT MAINTENANCE ISSUES
We are all busy and stressed. So while it might be tempting to ignore a broken garbage disposal or some other problem — this isn’t a smart idea explains Houston.
“Neglecting normal maintenance issues (especially water-related) can cause a lot of damage that isn’t always visible at first," says Houston.
"While these issues are usually for the landlord to address, failure to communicate the issue to the landlord can substantially increase the extent of repairs and time needed to fully fix.”
4) KNOW WHERE YOUR SHUTOFF VALVES ARE
“You absolutely need to be aware of where the breaker box is located, where the shutoff valve is for the water, and where the gas shut off is," Kat Christie, handywoman, licensed contractor, and founder of She Fixed That LLC tells me.
"If you are blow-drying your hair and blow a fuse, you're going to want to be able to switch that back on, so you need to know where the breaker box is. And, if you are running the dishwasher or washing machine in-unit and the water starts to flow, you're going to want to know how to shut that valve off before it becomes a true flood and causes a lot of damage.”
5) DON’T FLUSH ANYTHING THAT ISN’T TOILET PAPER
Clogged toilets might not feel like a big deal, but if your toilet breaks and you only have one in your apartment, it can be a complete nightmare. So be careful about what you're flushing. “You absolutely cannot flush anything down the toilet that isn't toilet paper — even those wipes which say they are flushable, are not,” says Christie.
“These can cause clogs, and clogs can cause flooding or other issues down the line. I've seen countless people have issues clogging their toilets, and in an apartment, when you can't always get someone quickly to unclog, it can be an issue. I highly recommend getting drain covers to cover any sink, shower, and bath drains so that hair can't so easily go down the drain and become clogged.”
6) PURCHASE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER
While many landlords provide fire extinguishers and are legally required to do in some states, you should have your own as well.
Buy a new one, like this highly-rated Kidde fire extinguisher available on Amazon, and keep it under the kitchen sink because many fires start in kitchens.
7) PUT NEW BATTERIES IN YOUR SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
It’s always a good idea to ask your landlord to replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors when you move in because you don’t know when they were last replaced. After all, you don’t want these devices to fail in an emergency.
8) CLEAN YOUR DRYER’S LINT TRAPS
If your apartment has a washer and dryer, it’s important to clean your lint trap after every use. Not only will this help your clothing dry more efficiently, but it can also potentially save you money on your energy bill.
Lastly, a build-up of lint can cause your dryer to break — or worse, start a fire. Fortunately, it takes less than a minute to do this.
9) CLEAN HVAC FILTERS REGULARLY
Ask your building’s maintenance person or your landlord to have your HVAC filters changed. Most people don’t know to do this and it's likely they haven’t been changed for years.
New filters will also make your machine run more efficiently, likely lowering your electric bill. Don’t forget to change filters at least seasonally or more often if you use your air conditioner year-round.
10) MAKE SURE THE FRIDGE HAS A NEW WATER FILTER
Does your refrigerator dispense water? Much like the HVAC, it’s unlikely that the filter has been replaced in a while.
No matter where you live, you want to assure your water is as clean as possible. Better yet, it’s far less expensive and more convenient than buying bottled water.