Secretory cargo that cannot fold properly in the ER are selectively targeted for removal by a well-studied ER-associated degradation pathway, or ERAD. In contrast, very little is known about post-ER quality control mechanisms for damaged or misfolded integral membrane proteins. Here we describe a quality control function of the Rsp5-ART ubiquitin ligase adaptor network that functions to protect plasma membrane (PM) integrity. Failure to mediate this protective response during heat stress leads to toxic accumulation of misfolded integral membrane proteins at the cell surface, which causes loss of PM integrity and cell death. Thus, the Rsp5-ART network comprises a PM quality control system that works together with sequential quality control pathways in the ER and Golgi to (i) target the degradation of proteins that have exceeded their functional lifetime due to damage and/or misfolding and (ii) limit the toxic accumulation of specific proteins at the cell surface during proteotoxic stress. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00459.001.