Imagine you try to leave your house one day and find that your front doorknob, which has always been sticky, finally gives up the ghost and you can't open your front door at all. Naturally, you contact your landlord about this and are told something along the lines of:

Per the lease, the tenant is responsible for all minor repairs. I can send out a locksmith but will bill you for it.

The relevant section would be:

Maintenance: The Tenant agrees to properly maintain the home and complete, at his own expense, all daily maintenance EXCLUDING furnace/AC, water heater, appliance replacement and major repairs. The tenant is responsible for the cleaning of all clogged drain lines. If the home is located within a community governed by a Homeowners Association, Tenant does hereby agree to abide by the rules and bylaws of said Association (Exceeding $200 maintenance threshold contact owner/landlord)

So I suppose it depends on what "daily maintenance" means. Does this even matter though? Is KY one of those states where real estate law establish the responsibilities of the Landlord, including maintaining basic habitability standards, with provisions that a lease cannot push such responsibilities off to the tenant? A front door that cannot be opened is a definite safety hazard, and presumably a violation of building codes, so it seems like something that falls squarely under the responsibility of a landlord (presuming it wasn't clearly the fault of the tenant). So:

  1. Does the above lease provision make the tenant responsible for a broken front door?
  2. Does KY real estate law require a landlord to fix a broken front door, regardless of lease?

1 Answer 1


Does the above lease provision make the tenant responsible for a broken front door?

This is a fair reading of the lease.

This is assuming, of course, the it really is a minor repair, and not, for example, a result of a structural problem that is causing the door to jam as a symptom of a larger problem. A jammed door is not infrequently due to a major structural problem rather than, for example, a failure of the easy and relatively inexpensive to fix doorknob mechanism.

Does KY real estate law require a landlord to fix a broken front door, regardless of lease?

Only a few localities in Kentucky have laws that require that residential property that is leased be maintained in a habitable condition.

In the places that do, a front doorknob is not obviously within the scope of the landlord's mandatory responsibility.

In particular, the duty of a landlord to "Provide windows and doors that are in good repair" is not addressed in the statute that localities in Kentucky can opt into to provide a landlord warranty of habitability in the state use.

Arguably, if the failure is with the only door in the premises, it might fall within the general provisions of the statute, but it doesn't have an obvious resolution one way or the other.

Also, as alluded to in the question, there is nothing improper about allocating at least ultimate financial responsibility to the tenant in cases where the damage is caused by the fault of the tenant.

Kentucky law also does not obviously prohibit triple net leases in which the tenant has financial responsibility for essentially all of the costs of maintaining and operating the premises (except the landlord's mortgage). But, in that case, where Kentucky law places a duty on the landlord, the landlord might have to fix the problem and then invoice the tenant for doing so.

  • I think my issue is with the whole "daily" maintenance adjective. I read this while signing the lease and never gave it a second thought, because a tenant is obviously responsible for the day-to-day tasks that keep a place working - unclogging drains, changing air filters, patching small holes, etc... My Landlord understands that to mean that I am responsible for all maintenance under $200 and makes me responsible for things like a broken door knob. That's not a part of "daily" house maintenance.
    – conman
    Jan 30, 2022 at 21:29
  • Moreover, if he wanted me to be responsible for all minor maintenance the lease could have just said so "tenant is responsible for all maintenance under $200". That would be unambiguous and, upon reading it, I would have understood exactly what it meant and simply not leased the house. "Daily" seems like an important qualifier to me, and I don't understand why it would be there if I was supposed to be responsible for all minor maintenance (which is what my landlord insists)
    – conman
    Jan 30, 2022 at 21:31

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