Basic Home Maintenance for Living Off-Campus

By Rhiannon Winner on July 8, 2017

When you move into your off-campus housing, there’s a good chance it’s the first time you’ve ever been personally responsible for maintaining a living space. When you Google search what kinds of basic maintenance you should be doing, you’re likely to get results about changing various vents or inspecting electrical wiring. You’re also probably going to stumble across a checklist of dozens upon dozens of items of recommended maintenance (even though much of it probably doesn’t apply to you).

If that sounds scary at first, don’t worry. This article will break down all of the basic maintenance you need to perform and includes a handy checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything!

The maintenance suggested in this article will vary by living space, of course. The maintenance discussed in this article assumes that you are living in a rented space rather than one you own and that your landlord is primarily responsible for the upkeep of utilities. However, this depends on the place you are living and the nature of the contract you signed.

The following maintenance suggestions are useful despite your living situation, although you may have to perform some extra yearly tasks should you be fully responsible for all maintenance. You can find a more detailed list from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As you’ve probably heard someone say before, it’s better to avoid a problem altogether. During an average school year, you’re juggling classes, clubs, study sessions, and occasionally, some much-needed downtime. There usually isn’t much time to spend on your housing situation if a major problem arises.

To avoid any disasters you definitely don’t have time to deal with, thoroughly inspect your off-campus housing for maintenance issues before signing the lease. If you suspect there may be faulty appliances, leaking faucets, broken electrical outlets, or any other maintenance issue that will not be resolved by the time you move in, don’t sign the lease!

Monthly Maintenance

Wait, I have to do something every month? Unfortunately, yes. The good news is that it won’t take much of your time! Monthly maintenance mostly consists of keeping everything clean. You can avert future disasters by vacuuming your carpets at least once per month (to avoid dirt sinking so deep that it’s particularly difficult to get out later), cleaning your windows, and just generally making sure that you avoid letting filth build up. Yes, this involves cleaning your toilets.

Luckily, for most of these tasks, there are easy products that will do most of the work for you. Monthly maintenance should not occupy more than a few hours of your time per month. Be sure to print out the checklist at the end of this article and make sure to complete every monthly task listed as it applies to you.

Semester and Yearly Maintenance

Semester maintenance, in particular, varies depending on the rental contract you have signed. For example, in some cases, the landlord may be responsible for changing your air filters or hiring someone else to do so. In others, you may have to do it yourself. Make sure you are clear on this when you sign your contract to avoid any nasty surprises!

Assuming you are responsible for your air filters, though, you will need to change these roughly every six months. However, this may vary depending on the size of your living arrangement. The larger the space, the less frequently your air filters need to be changed.

Now, if you have central air conditioning, you can disregard this next step. But if you are one of the many college students relying on a window air conditioning unit, every three months or so, you will need to change the filter. Your air quality will rapidly decrease the longer you go without changing it, and it could even make you sick (which is the last thing you want, especially if it needs replacing around exam time!).

As-Needed Maintenance

You know those vents in the ground but inside the house? Those are your floor vents, and in most cases, they aren’t going to cause you any problems. If you smell something odd, though, this might be the place to start looking. Pull out the grate and clean it.

Your door starts squeaking. Maybe you don’t mind, or maybe it’s annoying you to the point you want to do something about it. Your best bet is heading to your local hardware store or all-purpose store (i.e. Walmart) and buying a cheap container of grease. Oiling the hinges of your door may not take away all of the noise, but it will at least help.

In most cases, if you see a problem (peeling paint, curling shingles, etc.) it’s best to contact your landlord and ask them what the appropriate course of action is. If you’re lucky, they’ll handle it for you.


Note: This checklist is not comprehensive. Make sure to ask if your living arrangement requires additional maintenance work. This maintenance list assumes that your landlord will handle the majority of maintenance, as per usual college rental agreements.


Clean windows __

Vacuum carpets __

Mop or sweep hard floors __

Clean toilets __

Dust (electronics, fans, etc.)  __

Clean kitchen and bathroom countertops __

Clean stovetop and/or microwave __

Dust or vacuum window coverings __


Change air conditioning filter __

Change air filter __

Check for signs of leaks __

Check for signs of water damage __

Clean dryer vent __

Clean all appliance exhaust fans, burners, etc. __

Inspect smoke and CO alarms __

Alert landlord to any potential problems __

Check with landlord to determine if any more maintenance is necessary __

Finally able to say that one line from Hamilton about being 19. Avid reader, novelist, spaghetti enthusiast, and Eminem's biggest fan. Follow me on Instagram @rhiannon.winner and on Twitter @rhitweetings

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