Houses and apartments require regular maintenance. When you rent, you are not responsible for maintaining the functional aspects of your home, such as plumbing, electricity, and heating. And when flooding, a clogged pipe, or other problems arise, landlords generally must take action. In most situations you'll want to resolve the issue by simply communicating with the landlord, but where there is some resistance it is helpful to understand your legal rights.
So what should you do if your apartment or house needs something fixed but your landlord is not receptive? Your landlord's responsibilities arise from a number of different sources. The lease agreement and state laws dictate many of the basic rights and responsibilities that exist between landlords and tenants. The basics of a landlord's maintenance responsibilities are highlighted below. See Tenant Rights for additional articles.
Lease Agreements and State Laws
Check whether your lease requires the landlord to repair the particular issue you've discovered. If the contract does not appear to require this, or simply doesn't address the issue, check the real estate law of your state (as well as local laws) to see whether the law compels the landlord to pay for the repairs in question anyway. Landlords are typically required to make repairs to major problems, including major structural, electrical, and plumbing repairs.
If your landlord refuses to pay or does not respond, you may wish to look into other possibilities such as contacting the local housing authority or filing a claim in court. How you proceed will likely depend on the nature and extent of the issue, local laws and regulations, and the attitude of the landlord. Your actions should be carefully considered to avoid unnecessary conflict and expense.
As far as minor issues go, it will depend on a number of factors, primarily the lease, as well as local and state laws. If you find that the landlord is required to pay for the repairs, communicate your request to the landlord in writing to ensure that there is a record of your efforts to work the issue out with the landlord.
Repair and Deduct
Lastly, one option that may be available is called "repair and deduct". Some state and local laws allow for tenants to hire someone to make repairs, and then deduct the cost from the rent. It is important to note, however, that this option is not always available (for example, for minor repairs), and typically requires that the landlord be provided with adequate notice prior to its use. If you intend to repair and deduct you should carefully examine the relevant local laws to ensure that you follow the procedural requirements of your state.
Have Questions About a Landlord's Repsonsibility for Repairs? Ask a Lawyer
Disputes between landlords and tenants can be unnecessarily contentious and costly for everyone involved. Generally speaking, when you know your rights it's much easier to reach a reasonable resolution to dispute. Contact a local landlord-tenant attorney to learn more about both landlord and tenant responsibilities when it comes to rental property.