It is easy to forget that gutters exist or that you have some of them in your house. That’s until they stop working. Clogged, sagging, or leaky gutters, they’re likely to give you a headache and make you wish you had taken better care of them. When you own a house, the blame for not taken care of them is yours. However, if you rent a home, you might not even know if you were supposed to clean them. It’s definitely a grey area, and many tenants are not aware of what’s expected of them when it comes to cleaning gutters. Similarly to my other post on plumbing problems, I’ll try to answer the question of who’s responsible for cleaning gutters.
Your leasing agreement is probably the best place to find an answer. If you can’t find anything that addresses gutters specifically, you should look for clauses that address exterior maintenance, or landscaping. Some landlords will prefer to have tenants cleaning the gutters, since it is something simple. Others will want to be responsible for it, in order to make sure the maintenance is done properly.
Why is Cleaning Gutters So Important?
The reason why you need gutters in the first place is to keep any water away from the foundation of the house. So if they are not doing their job well, you can end up with pretty expensive basement or foundation issues. Even if the water just accumulates in a certain area next to the foundation, it will cause the soil to swell and possibly shift the foundation. Foundation repairs range anywhere from $250 to $10,000, so it is clear how important it is to try to avoid them.
There are several reasons why a gutter will not do what it is supposed to. Sometimes so much debris (leafs, twigs, bird’s nests) will accumulate that it will keep the water from flowing properly. Deterioration might cause holes and leaks in some cases. Regardless of what causes the issues, they can be prevented very cheaply. On the other hand, the costs to remediate the issues are significantly higher.
Why Your Landlord Might Want to Do It
Traditionally, most state laws require landlords to provide his tenants with a safe and habitable property. Additionally, landlords are usually responsible for any major structural repairs that the house might need in order to be safe and habitable. Having a house that is majorly waterproofed is considered to be one of the requirements for it to be habitable.
Tenants, on the other hand, are usually responsible for use the commonly used features of the property in a reasonable manner and to also keep them clean. So one could make an argument that tenants should also keep the gutters clean, but my counterargument to that is that no one EVER pays attention to the gutters. Until they break. It is hard keep something clean if you never really see it or use it.
Another reason why your landlord might want to fix it himself is that he doesn’t want the liability of having a tenant go up in a gigantic ladder in order to clean the roof of his house. One can only imagine the horror stories that have resulted from such acts, and landlords don’t want any emergencies happening at their properties.
Lastly, as I’ve already mentioned, the cost of preventing these issues (in other words, cleaning the gutters) is very minor compared to the cost of fixing them. So if your lease establishes that your landlord will take care of the gutters, just let him do so.
Why Your Landlord Might Want You to Do It
Landlords that own several properties do not have the time to take care of every single detail in every house. While they can hire someone to clean the gutters, these are expenses that accumulate over time.
So if the house is not too tall (decreasing the risk of any falls), and if the landlord sees you as a pretty capable person, he might want you to do it. Then, he might allow you to just deduct any expenses you incurred from that month’s rent – which sounds like a win-win.
What If My Lease Doesn’t Say Anything About It?
Some leases are very detailed while others are very straightforward. It is not uncommon to see leases that forget to address any gutter cleaning or maintenance. If that’s the case, your best bet is to contact your landlord and ask him directly. You might be able to negotiate some terms that are good for you, like cleaning the gutters in order to reduce that month’s rent.
If you tell the landlord that it is time to clean the gutters and he refuses to do so, you might need to see what your state law says about tenant and landlord responsibilities. In my other post, I created a table that summarizes most of them. You can check that and see what’s the best way to go about it.
How to Clean The Gutters
While cleaning the gutters is a very simple process, it is one of those things that will take a whole afternoon if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re prepared, you can get it done rather quickly. The right materials will also make your life significantly easier. This is what you’ll need:
- 2 Buckets with wire hooks
- A garden hose with nozzle/gutter cleaning attachment
- Work gloves
- Latex gloves
- Safety glasses
Instead of writing a step by step of how to do it, I found a video that will show you how to do it:
The video mentions fixing gutters as well, but if you are renting a house I recommend you to always check with your landlord before making any repairs. He might want something to be done professionally, or he might allow you to discount your costs from rent. There’s nothing wrong with trying to save some money.
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