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I own a small studio apt. in a co-op building located in Brooklyn, NY USA.

My tenant, who's been renting this studio for ~ 3 years, is asking to repair one of the built-in closets.

This closet was fine when this tenant moved in. I made a few repairs to it before signing the lease. Based on the photo they provided, it is very hard to tell whether this problem has been caused by wear-and-tear or any intentional / unintentional damage.

My question is -- Who is responsible for making these repairs?

  • If its the tenant, is there a regulation I can refer to when speaking to the them.
  • If its the landlord, what's stopping the tenant from damaging something else in the house(.e.g kitchen cabinets) and claiming the same story, and how can I protect my property?
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    "what's stopping the tenant from damaging something else in the house" — common sense. What's in it for the tenant apart from headaches? – Greendrake Aug 31 '20 at 3:15
  • Do you have a provision in the contract that specify who is responsible for repairs? – gatorback Aug 31 '20 at 7:18
  • @Greendrake Thank you for your comment. To be frank, I am a bit surprised by your faith in human rationale :) I've certainly seen / heard of people do this type of stuff to just annoy their landlords. – nycstudioowner Aug 31 '20 at 13:20
  • @gatorback unfortunately, I do not. This is something I am going to include in the next year's contract. – nycstudioowner Aug 31 '20 at 13:22
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Fair wear and tear

Means the normal deterioration of a property from ordinary, everyday use. Exposure to the elements, time, as well as day to day living can cause fair wear and tear. Breakages as a result of normal use are also wear and tear.

Damage is either intentional or a result of usage that is not normal.

So, if the closet has failed through normal use - throwing a wheel on a runner, a hinge or latch breaking in normal use - then it's your responsibility. If it is a result of abnormal use - slamming, continuing to operate when something is clearly wrong - then it's your tenant's responsibility.

However, there are commercial consideration beyond the legal ones. A tenant with a 3-year record of on-time rental payments and no other demands beyond a broken closet? Fix it and keep the tenant happy.

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    this makes total sense. I was also leaning towards biting the bullet because the tenants has generally paid on time and hasn't been causing other problems. Also, thanks so much for posting the link. – nycstudioowner Sep 1 '20 at 19:13

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