What is the ‘landlord special’ vs. the ‘tenant special’ on TikTok?

Anyone who’s ever lived in a run-down apartment knows the lengths landlords will go to save a buck on much-needed repairs — or avoid making them altogether.

From painted-over hinges and cables, to badly patched holes in the wall, to peel-and-stick flooring over every walkable surface, renters are often forced to live with some less than desirable repair work.

But now, with the help of TikTok, renters are not only exposing their landlords’ sneaky repair jobs, but they’re also revealing their own cunning apartment hacks to avoid any security deposit woes.

What is ‘the landlord special?

According to Urban Dictionary, “the landlord special” is any janky repair job made to a rental unit by a property owner or building super.

Not only are these questionable repairs often unsightly, they tend to limit the functionality of homes — like drawers that can’t open, chain latches that won’t lock or doors that don’t fully close.

While rental laws vary from state to state, landlords are required to make any repairs necessary to ensure rental units are safe and habitable.

“Your landlord must keep the structure of the building sound, including stairways, floors, and roofs; keep electrical, heating, and plumbing systems operating safely; supply hot and cold water in reasonable amounts; and exterminate infestations of pests such as cockroaches,” reports Nolo, an online legal resource.

“If your landlord fails to address a major problem, tenants in many states have options such as withholding the rent.”

However, when it comes to minor repairs, landlords might have more legal wiggle room.

“It’s often harder to enforce your rights to minor repairs than major ones,” writes Nolo. “Tenants in an uninhabitable dwelling are often allowed by law to withhold rent or use ‘repair and deduct’ procedures, but taking those actions for minor problems could get you evicted.”

But now, with the help of TikTok, renters are spotlighting these sketchy repair practices — and inspiring other tenants to get creative with their own pre-move repairs.

What is the tenant special?

With “the tenant special,” renters are taking a page from their landlord’s book by making their own shoddy repairs around the apartment — mostly to ensure they get their security deposit back when they move out.

While many of these DIY repairs are the inventions of clever TikTokers, some are taken straight from landlords’ playbooks, including the use of contact paper on, well, any surface that it can stick to.

Though many of these repair jobs do require renters to spend some of their own hard-earned cash, it’s certainly cheaper than what landlords would charge upon inspection.

According to Nolo, if you’re not sure whether your landlord is legally required to make a repair, check to see if any of the following address your specific problem:

  • the terms of your lease

  • any oral or written promises your landlord has made

  • state and local building codes

  • state landlord-tenant laws.

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