How to Get Your Landlord to Make Rental Repairs

Consumer protection, Money, Rights

How to Get Your Landlord to Make Rental RepairsIf you rent, your landlord is required by law to keep the property in a safe and livable condition. That doesn’t mean that getting your landlord to make the necessary repairs is always easy, though. If you’ve tried being polite and still can’t get your landlord to fix a faulty electrical socket or patch up the drippy ceiling, take heart: the law is on your side. Here are some strategies to get your repairs done.

Talk to Your Landlord

Explain what your problem is, how long it has been going on, and what you want them to do about it. Ask when repairs will be made and get a firm date and time. This way, they cannot say that somebody came to fix it but couldn’t gain access to your home. Take note of the day you had the conversation, as you might need it later.

Write to Your Landlord

Start a paper trail. Write a letter that reiterates the points you made in your conversation (noting the date) and request repairs within a reasonable amount of time. Keep a copy of this letter for your records. If you don’t hear anything back, send the same letter by certified mail and get return receipt, which proves that they saw the letter.

Still no response? Find a lawyer to write a letter on your behalf. A single letter from an attorney threatening legal action is often all it takes to get people moving.

Take Drastic Action

This is warranted only if the repairs you need made are major. The broken window screen in your kitchen may be a nuisance but it isn’t a threat to your health and safety, and your landlord is not obligated to repair it. But he or she must make repairs on things like leaking roofs and faulty plumbing, electrical, and heating systems. Look into the landlord-tenant laws in your state first, and then try the following:

Get an official inspection. Contact your local inspectors and let them document the problem for you. This may spur your landlord to make the repairs, but if it doesn’t, you’re in a stronger position for what comes next.

Make the repairs yourself – and deduct the cost from rent. Keep detailed records on the costs of materials and labor and send copies to your landlord along with a letter explaining why your rent is not the full amount. If you’ve already paid for repairs out of pocket and haven’t been reimbursed, go ahead and take it out of next month’s rent, as long as you’ve got the paperwork to prove it.

Withhold rent. If your situation makes you eligible to withhold rent, send a letter to your landlord informing them of your intent. Keep the money you would have used for rent in the bank so that if you’re sued, you can show that you have the means to pay, and are refusing only until the repairs are made. Once made, you must begin paying rent again.

Sue your landlord. You want the judge to issue a court order for the repairs. Once issued, continue to keep records and keep track of when the repairs were made. You might have another trip to court if the landlord still refuses to comply. They may end up facing fines or jail time, though this is rare.

Organize with other tenants. If the issue is affecting more than one apartment, speak with other tenants and take collective action. Your landlord is much more likely to fix the boiler or the wiring in the common room if multiple tenants are withholding rent.

Break your lease. Your living situation must be hazardous to your health and safety in order to break your lease without penalty, so this is a step to take only after you’ve had an official inspection confirming it and nothing else has worked. Simply move out. You may later choose to go after your security deposit in small claims court.

Document Everything

No matter which course of action you take, you must be organized when it comes to documenting your case. Write down dates and/or times of conversations, phone calls, letters mailed, and repairs made, as well as who was involved. Don’t rely on your word against your landlord’s.