Fixing the Most Common Renter Accidents

Covering a hole in the drywall with spackle.

With the housing market in shambles, many people are renting rather than buying a home. Renting an apartment or house for many years isn’t uncommon and during that time accidents happen, as well as normal wear and tear. There are many small problems that renters can fix themselves without getting the landlord involved. For a landlord, no news is good news, so if you can do it yourself, then even better.

Note: Some rental properties will have rules against fixing problems yourself and will make you forfeit a security deposit if you do try to remedy your own problems. Make sure you don't have a policy in your contract prohibiting self-repairs before trying any of these.

Fixing a Hole in the Wall

Holes in the wall

Maybe you were moving some furniture and accidentally put a chair leg through the wall (or a game of indoor football got a little out of hand). Whatever happened, there is now a hole in the wall and you don’t want to call the landlord to fix it. If the hole is small enough, say about the size of a fist (no judgement), then you can go to a local hardware store and buy a simple patch kit. The kit includes mesh to cover the hole, a small amount of spackle, and a tool for application. Larger holes require custom-cut mesh and more spackle.

If the hole is very large, then it may be best to simply replace the drywall. Cut out the drywall to the studs and place a new panel that fits using drywall screws, spackle, and tape.

Once the hole is fixed, no matter the size, wait for it to dry and sand it smooth. Once it’s completely smooth, prime and paint it, and you’re good to go.

Unclog a Drain


When a drain’s stopped up, you often don’t have the time (or the patience) to call your landlord, wait for him to call his plumber, and then wait for the plumber. So, you can just unclog it yourself.

You can often unscrew the P-trap under a drain by hand; it’s just two nuts that hold and seal the pieces. Use a wrench or channel lock pliers if you have to and then slide the trap off the drain from the sink and the pipe from the wall. Incidentally, this is also what you need to do when something small and precious goes down the drain.

Cleaning out the trap may be all you need, but if the clog is further down the line, run a plumber’s snake down the drain on the end of a drill. These are easy to find at your local home center. Clear the clog, retrieve the snake, and reinstall the P-trap. The whole operation could take you less than an hour.

Loose or Broken Tile

Fixing the Most Common Renter Accidents

Sadly, rental units are often put together with spit and bailing wire. Landlords want to maximize profit, so they use cheap materials. Over time, tile in the bathroom and kitchen can become loose or break, but you don’t need to bother the landlord with this simple repair.

If the tile has fallen off, clean the adhesive or grout off the back and reuse it. If it's broken, take it to a carpet and tile store to find a match for a new one. If it is loose, but still attached, then use a preheated iron to heat up the glue holding the tile in. Protect the tile with a towel between the iron and the tile. Don’t force it off, but let the glue warm up and gently pull it off with a scraper. Use a cloth and mineral spirits to get rid of the existing adhesive on the wall by scraping it off with a scraper. If the glue is hard to get off, use the iron again to heat it up.

If it's grouted in place, you'll probably have to break a tile that's simply loose, but try and get it out cleanly with a flathead screwdriver or a small pry bar and a hammer. Clean out all the old grout from the surface. Apply fresh adhesive or grout and place the tile back into the hole. Press hard against the tile with your hand or roll a rolling pin across it to get rid of any air bubbles. Then, let it dry.

If your landlord isn’t very responsive and there's no consequence to self-repairs, don't fret these small ones. Fix them yourself and keep your rented home looking sharp.