A Tenant's Rights to Landlord Repairs
A residential tenant has a right to live in a habitable rental property. Minor repairs in a rental unit, such as changing a faulty light bulb, are a tenant's responsibility. The landlord is responsible for necessary repairs, such as a leaky faucet or faulty air conditioning.
The landlord should clearly outline their responsibilities in the lease agreement. Even if they do not, the law outlines many landlords' responsibilities and obligations.
This article explores tenant rights and landlord repairs. Read on to learn more.
Warranty of Habitability
Most courts recognize an implied warranty of habitability in residential leases. Even if the rental agreement doesn't outline the landlord's responsibility to make repairs, a tenant is still covered. The warranty of implied habitability ensures the landlord is following local housing codes.
Under the implied warranty of habitability, the landlord must keep the rental property and unit in a habitable condition. This means that your landlord or their property management company must do the following:
- Ensure that the building is structurally sound
- Ensure that hot water is provided
- Ensure that the roof is not leaking
- Ensure the smoke detectors work
- Ensure the plumbing is operational
- Ensure that both the heating and electrical systems are safe and functional
In addition, landlords must hire an exterminator for a rental property with pest infestations.
While landlords are responsible for keeping the rental property in working order, an implied warranty of liability may not include minor repairs. Minor repairs include fixing the tenant's microwave or personal property. Landlords have no obligation to address minor issues.
Minor issues in a rental unit typically include the following:
- Grimy grout, or,
- Soap scum.
Even though these problems may annoy the residential tenant, a landlord may not have to repair these minor issues.
There are a few occasions when a landlord must make minor repairs:
- If the terms of the lease agreement state that the landlord will fix a specific problem, then the landlord is legally obliged to do so.
- If the landlord promised to repair, either verbally or in writing, the tenant may be able to hold the landlord to their promise.
- Lastly, state and local building codes and state landlord-tenant laws may require your landlord to make repairs, such as an infestation.
Dealing With a Difficult Landlord
Renters dealing with uninhabitable living conditions have several options for needed repairs.
These options include the following:
- Ask the landlord to make the repairs,
- Fix the problem and deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent,
- Withhold rent or pay the rent payment to the clerk of records until resolution, or
- File a claim in small claims court.
If the renter asks the landlord to repair, they must give the landlord reasonable time to respond to the repair request.
These actions may not apply to minor repairs. Withholding or deducting from rent for a minor repair may lead to an eviction.
Here are a few tips to consider when requesting a landlord make minor repairs:
- Put it in writing: By putting your request in writing, you give your landlord time to consider it. It allows you to make a convincing argument by showing the landlord the potential for injury caused by a minor problem.
- Mediation: Free or low-cost mediation services may specialize in landlord-tenant relations. Talk to a mediation service if your written request fails to get the repair done. The service will contact your landlord and invite them to sit down with a neutral mediator to come to a resolution.
- Report your landlord: There are situations where a minor problem is a violation of a building or housing code. You should contact your local housing authority. These agencies can inspect the problem and may contact or fine the landlord.
Landlord-tenant issues are often complex. Understanding your rights and obligations will help you navigate the exchange successfully. An experienced landlord-tenant attorney can explain your options if you're entangled in a dispute. Contact a landlord-tenant law attorney near you to learn more about your rights as a tenant.
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