All About Refrigerators in Rental Homes

A refrigerator is arguably the most important appliance in rental homes. Tenants can usually work around an oven that’s not heating or not wash clothes for a few days if the washer or dryer malfunctions, but a refrigerator works 24/7 keeping their food from spoiling. Often, landlords provide appliances including a refrigerator but occasionally renters provide their own.

What are common refrigerator issues?

  1. If there is water leaking on the floor, you may have a blocked defrost drain or clogged or frozen water supply.
  2. If the freezer isn’t cold enough, then you may have an issue with the evaporator fan or compressor.
  3. Your refrigerator “cycling” too often can be the temperature is set too low or there is dust and debris around the condenser coils.
  4. If your refrigerator is freezing your food, you may have an issue with the temperature setting or thermostat.
  5. If your water dispenser isn’t working, most likely the water tube is frozen, you have a faulty water inlet valve, or there is insufficient water pressure.

How do you know if a refrigerator should be repaired or replaced?

Everything in the home has an expected or estimated useful life. Most refrigerators are expected to last 8-18 years. If the refrigerator is close to the end of its useful life or has exceeded it, it’s usually better to replace it than try and do repairs. It may be able to be repaired but once an appliance reaches a certain age, more and more repairs will be needed, and you’ll spend hundreds of dollars on repairs and most likely still end up replacing it. Plus, it’s a hassle and inconvenience for the tenants to find food storage alternatives when the refrigerator is not working and be home to meet appliance technicians for repairs.

Who is responsible for repairing or replacing a refrigerator?

The burden of maintenance or replacement when it breaks is usually on the party that owns it unless it’s specifically spelled out otherwise in the lease. Sometimes, owners will provide it but put a clause in the lease saying it will not be repaired or replaced. If the lease doesn’t have this clause and the landlord provided the fridge, then the landlord is responsible for the repair or replacement when it breaks, assuming the repair is not due to negligence by the tenant which is rarely the case. Having a clause like this may lead to longer marketing time and possibly a lower rent price due to tenants choosing to rent other homes where the landlord will repair or replace the refrigerator if that’s more common in the market.

How much does it cost to replace a refrigerator? 

There are a variety of options so the price can range from $450-$10,000 but most refrigerators in rental homes cost under $2,000.

How much are refrigerator repairs?

Appliance repairs are typically a combination of parts and labor. The labor is usually the higher expense and can run $50-$150 per hour. For older refrigerators, parts may not be available or need to be special ordered. If the repair technician doesn’t have the part, then you’re usually paying for two trips (a minimum of two hours). The first trip is to diagnose the issue, find out if a part is needed, and give an estimate, while the second trip is when the repair happens assuming the technicians don’t have the part or cannot get approval for the repair during the first visit. An appliance repair can easily cost a couple of hundred dollars in labor plus parts.

Time is of the essence when a refrigerator breaks. While it doesn’t affect the health of the tenants or the habitability of the property, it’s usually seen as an urgent repair or even an emergency by the tenants. Failing to make repairs or replace broken appliances in a timely manner can affect their decision to renew the lease, which can lead to lost income due to vacancy, rent-ready repairs, and leasing fees.