Maintaining a good relationship between tenants and landlords can be maddening. How to avoid walking the tension high wire? By noticing maintenance issues that crop up and reporting them before serious damage or danger takes root. Communicating clearly to the landlord about repairs in writing is always a good idea. What types of problems should tenants typically watch for?

1. Start with your smoke alarms. Is yours chirping? Don’t just yank the offending noisemaker from the ceiling or remove the batteries to quiet things down. Smoke alarms often make a chirping sound every few minutes as they get closer to their last draw of power. Some models make noise more persistently as the problem gets worse. Noisy alarms are a sign of trouble and letting the landlord know is vital.

2. Something smelly in the air? Strange odors are always a cause for concern. Odors can be caused by anything from a backed-up sewer to a deceased varmint behind a wall. If you smell something out of the ordinary, don’t go hunting for the source. Let the landlord or his or her crew work on the problem.

3. Wall or ceiling discoloration is also a concern. A variety of conditions can cause paint changes, including mold, mildew and water seepage. Always report peeling paint to the owner and avoid tampering with the loose pieces. Peeling paint is caused by a variety of reasons, ranging from excess moisture in the room to poor paint preparation. Ceiling leaks are often caused by roof problems, which should be called in to the landlord immediately.

4. Electrical. Never overload light fixtures with high-wattage bulbs, such as 100-watt bulbs in 60-watt fixtures. Most fixtures are stamped with the maximum wattage rating, and should be strictly adhered to in order to avoid fire or fixture damage. Previous wattage errors are easy to spot; the base may be melted or a black area may surround the fixture. Don’t play roulette if the fixture is damaged and report promptly.

5. Plumbing. Because every rental has some sort of running water in the place, it’s the most common source of problems. Dripping faucets are to be noted, and avoid over hand-tightening when faucets start to drip. An overly tightened faucet can strip the underlying cartridge and cause more damage than a simple rubber change out. A toilet making nonstop running-water sounds may seem like a small problem, but the amount of water wasted is vast.

6. Clogged drains should be reported quickly, too. Left unreported, clogs get worse and can run up higher plumbing costs as the clog gets tighter and deeper into the plumbing line. Garbage disposals left unused or with standing water can rust out and require replacement. Using drain cleaners may seem like a quick fix, but they can corrode and damage the plumbing system, causing more trouble. Replacing pipes may not be your problem, but the hassle, noise and inconvenience of fixing them may be laid at your doorstep if the system needs inordinate attention.

7. Appliances. Has the shelf cracked on the refrigerator or the knob popped off the stove? If it’s your fault, you may want to browse online and find a replacement part. If professional help is needed, offer to split the cost.

8. Doors and windows that stick. Sometimes doors and windows swell more severely when the weather changes patterns, leaving you out in the cold. If the door is always sticking, rain or shine, that may be a job for Super Sander. Let the landlord call in the hero.

Sliding doors often accumulate dust and debris in the tracks, making them sluggish and risking breakage when the door gets pulled one way and the mirror goes another. Regular vacuuming or sweeping should keep you on track. If the door continues to stick, don’t ignore it, especially with heavier mirrored doors.

9. Wobbly locks. Lock screws are usually on the inside portion of the lock and tightening the loose screw just takes a minute; getting locked out when the lock falls on the floor is a bit more time consuming. Shaky locks are easy to fix, but let the landlord know if you want to do it yourself.

Whatever the situation, be sure to identify and explain the problem thoroughly, giving a visual explanation, such as “the left side of the master bedroom by the window has a brown, dinner-plate-sized roof discoloration.” If you write “ceiling has a stain” the landlord may dismiss the problem without investigating. Notifying the landlord or manager in writing can avoid hassles and possible danger for both of you in the future.

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