What options does a tenant have when a landlord falls to maintain the rental ?
if you followed wrong thing ,then you might end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. I can only answer for the U.S. and, at that, laws vary significantly from state to state.
First, don’t just move out. If you do, the landlord can still sue you for rent until he gets it re-rented. Some states might allow that, but many will not. Also, do not withhoid rent! Once you withhold rent, you have
created a separate issue. The repairs and rent payment are two unrelated issues and once you withhold rent, you can be evicted.
if the window is open and can’t be
closed in the winter, it may qualify and if the pipes make it impossible to use any of the plumbing, that could qualify.
your first step is a letter to the landlord. Send it registered mail so you have a receipt to prove he received it. Give him a reasonable deadline within which to respond.
If he doesn’t respond, it’s going to cost money and time. The preferred route is to hire a lawyer. As I often say, it’s amazing what a registered letter, on law firm stationary, can accomplish! Often that’s all that’s needed.
If you can’t or don’t want to hire a lawyer (or can’t get one through legal aid), then you’ll have to handle the rest on your own.
The problem with handling any legal issues in landlord tenant law, on your own, is that the landlord knows the law better than you do and knows the game (if he is playing a game). The first step is to research the law in your state. What can you do? For instance, in Virginia, call the court clerk’s office and they’ll help you with filing the proper papers. In Virginia, and some other states, what you’re doing is
going to court to get a court order to pay rent into an escrow account.
You can’t just say, “I’m going to pay into escrow.” You have to have a court order. For that, when you go in to see the judge, you need proof of the issues. That includes photos, anyone who can testify how long it’s
been that the issues have existed, and a copy of any correspondence you’ve had with the landlord. (The receipt from the registered letter and a copPy of that will be a major help. It shows he was legally notified
of the issues and, at that point, has no excuse for not fixing them.)
This will be different in different states and I’m not sure all states use an escrow account. Some states may have a completely different way to handle this.
Again, the preferred method is with a lawyer, since they know how to do all this and are much more likely to get results.
Be aware that this won’t work for all repairs. For instance, if there are nail holes in the wall from hanging pictures, you’re not going to get help from the court in handling that. But for the items you mention,I suspect most judges ill see the importance of the need for repairs.
And, whatever you do, document the hell out of it! All communications with the landlord, all photographs of the condition, any journal or log you keep of the situation must be documented. when you go to court, it’s far better to have too much documentation,
including items you don’t need, then not have proof the judge needs. (Remember, the judge doesn’t know if you or the landlord is lying, so you have to back up what you say!)
If you’re close to the lease expiring, it may be worth considering just documenting the damage (to prove you didn’t do it)
and to just give notice and move out. (Check to see how much notice you have to give to move out. It could be 30 days, it could be 60, or there could be something else involved.)
All states have different laws. It’s always
amazing to me when someone pops up and starts talking like a lawyer and starts saying things I know are wrong in at least some states, but yet makes a blanket statement about what to do and uses words like “always.” I just deleted a comment where
someone describes a process they say will work in every state. He made some good points, but l know
of at least one state where, if a tenant followed his procedure, they could end up in trouble, both in terms of late fees, but also being sued by the landlord.
Many landlords, even good ones, do not want tenants arranging repairs. (“‘ll allow it, but it depends on what the repairs are and whether the tenants have shown me they’re generally responsible or not and there are
other factors.) I’ve had problems with tenants trying to DIY repairs that need to be done by a licensed professional.
For example, if a tenant rewires a light, and they don’t do it right, and I accept the repair and it starts an electrical fire, I’m responsible. In such a case, if I find out about that repair and they try to take the cost out of rent, to cover myself, I need to hire a licensed electrician to fix it – even if all they do is inspect it. And, yes, at that point, I can charge them at least a good part of the electrician’s fee. If they let me do it right the first time, I’m paying for the repair, it’s
done properly, and there are no issues.