What Can I Do if My Landlord Won't Make Repairs?

by Sarah Stasik
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One of the potential benefits of renting a home or an apartment is that you aren't on the hook for major repairs. Typically, those are in the purview of the property owner — your landlord — so if the dishwasher or HVAC unit goes out or something else needs fixing, you don't have to pay for it.

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But what if the landlord doesn't fix things in a timely manner or at all? Unfortunately, that does happen, and it's important to know what to do if the landlord refuses to make repairs.

Steps to Take If the Landlord Doesn't Fix Things

If you're living in an apartment, a townhome, a condo or a house you're renting and the landlord refuses to make repairs, you have some options. Typically, it's best to start with the simplest and least expensive step and work your way up to more serious legal steps if your landlord isn't fixing things.

1. Communicate With Your Landlord

Start by communicating the issue with your landlord in the clearest possible terms. Before you move on to other steps, you want to ensure the landlord does understand there are issues and that you expect them to take action. You may want to invite the landlord to come and inspect the issue themselves so they have a correct understanding of what the problem is.

2. Put Your Ask in Writing

Put your request in writing so you can prove you informed the landlord about the issue. This may come in handy if you have to move on to other steps later, and it can also help protect your security deposit if the landlord tries to claim you were negligent in reporting an issue. You can write an email or send a written letter about the issues through the mail. If you choose to mail a letter, consider sending it certified so you can prove the landlord received it. Always keep a copy of the communications you send.

3. Report Serious Violations

If the landlord refuses to make repairs even after you've clearly communicated the need, you might be able to force the issue by reporting a code violation. Research state and local housing laws and which agencies are in charge of enforcing them. Call the agency in question to report issues of safety or something that doesn't adhere to building codes. The agency may take steps such as conducting inspections and forcing a landlord to fix the problem.

4. Withhold Rent or Deduct Expenses From Rent

Many states provide legal options for withholding rent if landlords won't fix a leaking roof or other serious issues that reduce the habitability or function of a home. Before you can withhold rent, you must ensure you meet all your obligations as a renter, including communicating the issue to the landlord and ensuring the issue isn't your fault. You may want to discuss this option with an attorney before you move forward to ensure you're standing correctly on your rights as a renter.

Another option is to make the repairs yourself and deduct the expenses for those repairs from your rent. You'll also need to ensure you adhere to your obligations as a renter with this option. Make sure you keep track of all your expenses, too, so you can prove how much the repairs cost.

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5. Relocate

In some cases, you may believe it's not viable to continue to live where you are. Even if the landlord eventually makes repairs, the conflict might have damaged your ability to trust them in the future or you may just want to move into a property managed by a more responsible individual or company. In this case, you may want to provide notice to your landlord that you'll be moving and make arrangements to do so.

6. File a Lawsuit Against Your Landlord

You can file a lawsuit against your landlord if they fail to uphold the requirements of a lease. Depending on the nature of the lawsuit, you may be able to handle the matter in small claims court with or without a lawyer. Because any type of lawsuit will require court and legal fees, you may want to ensure you've exhausted other options before moving to this step.

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Does It Matter What Kinds of Repairs They Are?

Yes, your rights as a tenant and your ability to seek remedies via the steps described above do depend on the types of repairs you request. Cosmetic repairs that don't impact the safety or structure of the home, for example, aren't typically considered as weighty as more serious issues, such as structural damage or lack of HVAC during cold months. You typically don't have as many legal options, such as reporting violations, when you're dealing with cosmetic or optional repairs.

Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is formed by use of the Editorial Content. We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. We cannot provide advice, explanation, opinion, or recommendation about possible legal rights, remedies, defenses, options or strategies. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of the Blog is subject to the

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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