Many landlords prefer to initiate construction projects when the apartment is vacant. When the tenant moves in, the apartment is in good repair. Emergency construction or repairs can occur at any time. The tenant contacts the landlord by telephone and by written notice to describe the problem. If the needed repair is serious and affects the habitability of the apartment, the landlord must make the repair immediately. If the repair is not urgent, the landlord makes the repair in a reasonable period of time.
Habitable is an important description of rental apartments. Even though each state has laws and regulations about rental housing, all states require that rental units are fit to live in. For example, rental apartments are required to have functioning toilets, as well as plumbing, electrical, and heating systems. The apartment must not endanger the tenant’s safety or health. A landlord may pay for the tenant’s motel during construction depending on the circumstances.
Upgrades or Emergency Repairs
Making the Repairs
If the tenant, or his family, pets or guests cause damage, the landlord is often not required to make the repairs. Landlords may repair the damage and bill the tenant. Tenants are required to keep the apartment clean and sanitary and operate the plumbing, heating and electrical systems properly. The apartment rental agreement or lease often describes who makes the repairs or initiates the construction projects.
If Repairs Aren’t Made
When a landlord fails to make the required repair, the tenant has several remedies depending on state law. In some states the tenant can hire someone to make the repairs and bill the landlord. Some state laws allow tenants to stop paying rent until the repair is completed. Other states allow tenants to move into a motel until the repairs are made and bill the landlord for the cost of the motel. Sometimes tenants withhold part of the rent until the repair or construction is complete and the apartment is fully habitable.
If the landlord plans a major construction project for the apartment, good communication between the landlord and tenant is critical. The landlord contacts the tenant and describes the proposed project and the amount of inconvenience to the tenant. Sometimes the landlord schedules the construction in stages to minimize the inconvenience. The work might take place while the tenant is away for the day. The landlord and tenant may agree on a reduction in rent during construction. For large projects that make the unit uninhabitable for some time, the landlord pays for the tenant to stay at a motel, or the tenant moves in with friends or family and does not pay rent during the construction period.
- Volunteer Lawyers Program: Community Legal Services; Arizona Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook; August 2009
- California Department of Consumer Affairs; Consumer Publications – Landlord/Tenant
- The Judicial Branch of Arizona; Evictions: Information for Landlords and Tenants (Houses, Apartments, and Mobile Homes)
- County of Los Angeles: Department of Consumer Affairs; Repairs
- City of Boulder Colorado: Landlord -Tenant Handbook; 2011
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