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Needed repairs in rental

Category: Tenant Rights & Laws Published: Sunday, 21 September 2014 Written by ATA Admin

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Notify landlord in writing:

We cannot stress how important it is to notify your landlord of any issues or repairs that need to be made in writing sent certified mail through the USPS.

If you’re having problems or have concerns at the rental property you rent such as repairs that need to be made, quiet enjoyment violations, lease issues, etc. You should send your landlord a written or typed letter certified mail of the issue. You must then give your landlord reasonable amount of time to make the repairs. Keep a copy of the letter sent to your landlord as well as the certified mail receipt.

Provide written notice of the problem in addition to personal contact, or follow-up if the landlord takes no corrective action. A written note provides formal notice of the problem and provides documentation for possible legal action. Send a letter certified mail of the issues or repairs you are having. THIS IS THE FIRST STEP YOU MUST TAKE.

 

You cannot use any other remedy until this step is taken such as with hold rent or repair and deduct. 


 

Remedy: Repair and deduct

  1. Repair and Deduct may be a good solution for you if:
    1. you don’t want to move,
    2. your problem is something specific that a repair person can fix, and
    3. the repairs will cost less than what you pay for your monthly rent.
  2. Before you can get the problem repaired, your first step is to write to your landlord, tell him about your problem(s), and ask him to fix it. Do not skip this step– you must tell him in writing, even if you've already told him before about the problem.
  3. Be detailed about the problem– explain how it affects your family’s home, health, safety, cleanliness, etc. If you can, also take pictures and/or videos of the problem.
  4. Always keep copies of all your letters.
  5. Give your landlord a reasonable time to do the repairs.
  6. If he doesn't fix it, you need to write to him again. Tell him that because he has not fixed your problem, you plan to get it fixed yourself and to subtract the cost from your rent, if he does not repair it immediately.
  7. If the landlord doesn't do anything within a day or two, call around and get about three written estimates of how much the repairs will cost. Choose the most reasonably priced company. Remember, you can only use repair and deduct if you can pay for the repairs.
  8. Get the repairs done. Get a receipt. Then, when it is time to pay rent, write to your landlord again, telling him that you got the repairs done, and how much money you spent. Give him a copy of your receipt, and copies of the other estimates you had gotten, so he can see you spent a fair amount. Subtract the amount you paid for repairs from your usual rent amount, and only pay your landlord the difference.
  9. Important: only spend the money on the repairs, not on anything else. The next month, you must go back to paying your usual amount.
  10. Before you get the repairs done, make sure that other people have seen the problem and its effects, so that if you ever need to go to court, you’ll have proof that the problem was serious. In addition, if you can get the repair people to describe the problems in their written estimates or receipts, that could be helpful.

 

Before you use this remedy option, make sure you have sent the landlord a letter certified mail of the issues in the apartment and gave him or her reasonable amount of time to fix the issues. 

Take pictures and/or video of the repairs that need to be made.


 

Remedy:  Withholding rent

  1. Withholding rent may be appropriate for you only if:
    1. you cannot afford to pay for the repairs, and
    2. your problems are so serious that your home is uninhabitable.
    3. But be careful, because it is not often the most appropriate choice, and many courts do not look favorably on it. In addition, while you are withholding rent you should be looking for another place to live, because the landlord may then try to evict you.
  2. Examples of what would not be appropriate problems for withholding rent are torn carpeting, leaky faucets, toilets that won’t stop running, cracked walls, or a small or minor amount of bugs or rodents. Examples of what might be appropriate are no hot water, no heat in the winter, dangerous conditions in the structure of your home, a seriously malfunctioning sewage system, or an extreme amount of rodent or other infestation.
  3. The safest way to withhold rent to try to get the landlord to improve conditions is to put the rent money into an escrow account at a local bank. This way, if your landlord tries to evict you or sue you for the money, you can prove to the court that you were not using the money for another purpose.
  4. The first step in this process would be to write to your landlord, tell him about your problem(s), and ask him to fix it. Do not skip this step– you must tell him in writing, even if you've already told him before about the problem.
  5. Be detailed about the problem– explain how seriously it affects your family’s home, life, health, safety, cleanliness, etc. If you can, also take pictures of the problem.
  6. Always keep copies of all your letters.
  7. Next, give your landlord a reasonable time to do the repairs.
  8. If he doesn't fix the problem, you need to write to him again. Tell him that because he has not fixed your problem, your home is uninhabitable, and therefore, you intend to withhold your rent. Tell him that you will begin paying rent again after he fulfills his obligations as a landlord.
  9. Do not spend this money. (To learn how to spend your money to make repairs, see “Repair and Deduct” page). Put the money into a separate account. You can ask your local bank how to do this. This way, if your landlord takes you to court and wins a judgment against you, you will have the money to pay it back.

 

Before you use this remedy option, make sure you have sent the landlord a letter certified mail of the issues in the apartment and gave him or her reasonable amount of time to fix the issues. 

 

Also you can only use this option if the defects to the rental unit cause a serious problem as stated. 


Remedy: Lawsuit for back rent and other expenses

  1. Suing for back rent and other expenses may be a good solution for you if you've already spent your own money to get things repaired, or if you’re moving out and think you deserve some back rent because the home had serious problems. You can sue whether you are staying in the home or moving out.
  2. Before bringing this kind of lawsuit, you should make sure that you've notified the landlord of the problems (in writing), and given him a reasonable chance to fix them, but he hasn't.
  3. This solution means going to the Magisterial District Justice and filling out lawsuit papers. You can get more information on how to do this from NPLS or a private attorney. You can also contact us at the Tenant Association of Allentown.
  4. There are many things you can ask for in this lawsuit. For example, you can request:
    1. Reimbursement for any money you've spent to repair the problem, or to repair damages to your property, or to make your place more livable under the circumstances;
    2. Refund for part or all of your back rent paid, for the time period when the problem made your home uninhabitable (how much depends on how bad it was or is);
    3. Reimbursement for your extra utility costs, if your utility bills were unusually high because of the problem;
    4. Reimbursement for any money you spent if you ever had to pay for temporary housing because of the bad conditions;
    5. Reimbursement if you suffered some emotional or physical harm because of the bad conditions caused by the landlord or his failure to fix the problem; and/or,
    6. Reimbursement for your property damaged or destroyed because of the bad conditions (spoiled food, damaged clothing, or furniture).
  5. Bring to court any photographs which show the bad conditions. It would also be helpful for other people who have seen the bad conditions to come to your hearing and testify for you. If your local Housing Code Enforcement Office knows how bad the problems are, get them to testify at the hearing or make sure to bring their reports with you.
  6. What you need to do at the hearing is prove to the court that:
    1. these problems seriously interfered with your health, safety, cleanliness, etc.;
    2. these problems were your landlord’s fault or responsibility, and,
    3. the landlord didn't fix the problems within a reasonable time after you told him about them.
  7. Bring to court all receipts for your expenses, back rent, utility bills, and for anything else you are asking the Court to give you for having to deal with this problem.

 

Remember to notify your landlord in writing and wait a reasonable amount of time before proceeding with this remedy.


 

 

Remedy: Move out

Move out

  1. If a landlord does not provide certain things for you that cause a serious problem, such as a working sewer system, heat in cold weather, or drinkable water, he may be violating what’s called a “warranty of habitability”; (see p.5). In these situations, you have the right to end your lease and move out.

 

  1. Do not just leave. If you plan to move out, you should first write to your landlord, tell him about your problems, and ask him to fix the problems within a reasonable period of time. Try to be detailed in your letter; explain how the problem affects your family’s home, health, cleanliness, etc. Keep a copy of your letter.

 

  1. If he does not fix the problems within a reasonable time, go ahead and plan to move.

 

  1. When you know when you will be moving out, write to him again, telling him that because he did not fix these problems, that he has violated the warranty of habitability, and as a result, you are moving out. You may also want to request your security deposit back, and some back rent for the time the conditions were bad. It is probably a good idea to wait until the day you are leaving to send the landlord the letter.

 

Before you use this remedy option, make sure you have sent the landlord a letter certified mail of the issues in the apartment and gave him or her reasonable amount of time to fix the issues. 

Also you can only use this option if the defects to the rental unit cause a serious problem as stated.

  


 

Remedy:  Combination of remedies

You may choose a combination of remedies. Any one of the previous remedies, by itself, may not be totally suitable for you. Your situation may allow you to use a combination of different remedies.

Suppose, for example, that for the past 2 months you have paid the full rent but have had no hot water. You have told the landlord about it but he has not made the repairs in a reasonable length of time. In the meantime, you have found another place to live and plan to move there next month. What can you do? You may choose to:

  • request that a part of the past 2 months’ rent be returned to you;
  • reduce part of this month’s rent; and
  • move out next month without being responsible for future rent to your present landlord. You should be aware that none of these options are perfect or easy winners. Any of them could cause your landlord to try to evict you. However, if your landlord is truly not providing you with safe, sanitary conditions, he cannot evict you solely to get back at you.

 

 

 

Before you use this remedy option, make sure you have sent the landlord a letter certified mail of the issues in the apartment and gave him or her reasonable amount of time to fix the issues. 

 

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