Top 3 Tenant Options if Landlords Won’t Make Repairs
The world today has made living easy and comfortable for tenants. Now, you can hold landlords responsible for issues such as repairs. For example, suppose your rental unit is unlivable due to a significant problem, such as mice in the kitchen or damaged locks on the door; your landlord has to ensure this is curtailed.
While paying your rent to a professional property manager might prevent this, there are situations when your landlord doesn’t come through to fix your rental space. In this case, you should take more robust measures and explore specific options.
These options help ensure your home is restored to a habitable condition as promptly as possible. Although the laws and recommendations backing them can vary from state to state, they are still available. In this article, we’ll help you understand some of your options when your landlord fails to make repairs.
Top 3 Tenant Options if Landlords Won’t Make Repairs
- Withholding Rent
One good way to pressure your landlord to fix poor circumstances in your rental space is to delay a portion or all of your rent until the landlord performs the repairs. You can call this “rent withholding.”
According to the assurance of habitability, this option is legal for you as a tenant since landlords must provide a secure and livable dwelling. If the landlord breaches this duty, your obligation to pay the total amount of rent until repairs are made ends. Depending on how severe the infractions are, a tenant might choose to withhold all or a portion of the rent. How much and how long you can withhold are not specified by law.
Not paying your rent also means the landlord will try to evict you. That’s why you must take every precaution to keep yourself safe. When you delay the rent, endeavor to consult a lawyer before proceeding.
- Repair and Deduct Option
In certain states like Massachusetts, tenants can fix repairs and deduct up to four months’ rent to cover the cost. “Repair and deduct” is the term for this.
For this option, you can either hire a repair person to conduct the work or remedy the fault yourself. The cost will then be deducted from the rent for the subsequent month if you have tried and failed to persuade the landlord to rectify a significant defect. The advantages of landlords making tenants pay for repairs include successful completion of the work, quick fixes of the flaw, and personal monitoring of the professionals in charge.
The drawback, however, is that you are now accountable for ensuring that the repairs are done correctly. In addition, expensive projects like a significant roof repair make the repair-and-deduct approach a terrible option. However, several renters can pool their available funds to pay for a costly repair.
- Reporting Violations to House Inspectors
Another option you have is to make a violation report to house inspectors. You can contact the organization in charge of implementing the law if the issue violates state or municipal housing legislation. This could be a health or fire department, a housing or building agency, etc. After an investigation, the inspector will notify the landlord of the infringement and give them between 30 and 60 days to fix the issue.
Exceptionally major infractions may result in a shorter time frame. Health, fire, or building inspectors may even abruptly shut down your building in some situations. If a landlord disobeys the repair order, fines and possible jail time may come into the mix. It would help if you also remembered that inspectors’ efficacy varies greatly depending on their schedules and resources.
Will it Make Sense to Sue the Landlord Immediately?
While it might seem sensible to sue your landlord without hesitation, you must take a breath and understand certain things.
Firstly, know that a lawsuit only makes sense if you feel comfortable staying in your apartment. If you want to avoid the stress of options like moving, arranging for the repair yourself, and withholding rent, you could stay and sue.
But in cases where you are without heat in the winter or at risk of electrocution each time you turn on the lights, you wouldn’t want to stay and file a lawsuit.
There are other benefits and drawbacks when you file a lawsuit against your landlord compared to employing repair-and-deduct or rent withholding.
One benefit is that if you lose your lawsuit, you won’t be evicted, unlike if you tried unsuccessfully to use repair-and-deduct or rent withholding. However, you will have wasted some time and money.
Filing a lawsuit also carries some risk, particularly if you’re a month-to-month tenant or your lease is about to expire and you want to extend it. Your irritated landlord may decide to cancel or not renew. Tenants under the umbrella of state anti-retaliation statutes will have some protection, but filing a lawsuit to vindicate their rights is a dismal possibility.
In some areas, you can also seek a court order compelling the landlord to make the repairs in exchange for a temporary reduction in rent. However, most of the time, the money judgment catches the landlord’s attention, and he makes the repairs. Other places, like small claims courts, can only instruct the landlord to refund you for your losses.
Tenants today no longer have to fret if their landlords are not forthcoming about making repairs. There are now various options for you to explore to pressure them into fixing your rental space. You can withhold your rent, repair it yourself and deduct it from it, or report it to the associated authorities. In cases where you don’t want the stress associated with all these, you also have the right to sue them and protect yourself while at it.