In most states, landlords are legally required to maintain rental units in fit and habitable condition. But a landlord is typically responsible only for certain major repairs.
Things You'll Need
- Notebook Papers
- Postage Stamps
Assess your situation. Repairs needed to keep the residence habitable would be considered major, while minor repairs are matters of convenience. Examples of major repairs are a door that won't lock, a broken furnace, a toilet that won't flush and deteriorating lead paint.
Do your homework. Study up on local ordinances and state housing codes, and review your rental contract to see if your landlord is responsible for the specific repairs you need.
Make your request for a repair in writing, unless it's an emergency that requires immediate action. Detail the problem, how it affects you and what you want done and when.
If your landlord fails to remedy the problem, build your case. Take pictures. Have a professional assess the problem and estimate repair costs. Gather forces and present your request as a group if other ten-ants suffer from the same problems.
Consider calling state and local building or health inspectors if repeated requests are ignored. Be prepared to provide documentation of the problem and your attempts to have it fixed.
Consider the repair-and-deduct option. Have the repair work done professionally and deduct its cost from your monthly rent. View your specific rental agreement in detail before taking this route.
Take extreme caution before you decide to withhold monthly rent payments as a tactic. This is illegal in some states, and in states where it is permitted, it requires strict adherence to certain procedures. Mishandling this could get you kicked out of your residence.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep records of all correspondence with your landlord and write down the date for everything. You'll need comprehensive evidence of your dealings should the case enter a courtroom.
- Provide as much detail as you can when you write to your landlord. Also, point out that the problem may worsen over time and become a much more expensive repair.
- Before you withhold rent, sue or adopt another drastic approach, make sure that such an approach is legal in your state, that the necessary repair is major, that you have given your landlord adequate notice and time to act, and that you are willing to end your tenancy should the landlord or judge successfully evict you.