Rental Laws: What Are My Landlord’s Maintenance Responsibilities?January 15th, 2010 by Staff Writer
Rental laws require that your landlord maintains your apartment. This means that your apartment should be inhabitable and you have the right to timely repairs of appliances and damages to the apartment structure that cause a safety or sanitary issue. Here’s a review of some of your landlord’s maintenance responsibilities:
Some of the major problems that occur in apartments revolve around heating and plumbing. For example, the tenant above you might cause the bathtub to overflow, which leaks through your ceiling and soaks your things. Rental laws require the landlord to fix this problem within 24 hours. Otherwise, a landlord could neglect this repair, making it unbearable and unsafe for you.
Even with the rental laws, some landlords ignore this duty, requiring you to follow up with legal action in some cases. If it does come to that, you should know that by law, the landlord has a duty to maintain your apartment while you’re in possession of it, in a way that makes it both livable and suitable. In the case of water leaking into your apartment, you may not be able to use that room or any electrical appliances in that room.
Unlike major repairs which must be fixed and right away, minor repairs may not ever have to be repaired by your landlord. For example, if you have cosmetic issues with some parts of your apartment, such as small holes in the wall, or stains on the ceiling, you landlord doesn’t have to repair those. Things that are an eyesore have nothing to do with whether the apartment is defective. You may not enjoy looking at it, but that’s a matter to take up when negotiating your rent.
Perhaps you can negotiate a slightly lower rent payment, or ask to be reimbursed for the cost of improvements you make to the apartment. However, there are some minor repairs that your landlord must make, according to the rental laws in your state. These vary, and you can use websites like www.findlaw.com to research the particular laws where you live. Keep in mind that your lease agreement is a contract, and the landlord is obligated to make any minor repairs agreed to in the lease.
Damages You Cause
What about repairs that are necessary because of your actions? Your landlord still has to keep your apartment in a livable condition, but rental laws protect your landlord for the costs incurred to make those repairs. This means that the landlord can bill you for the costs directly. If you can’t pay it, the landlord has a right to deduct the cost out of your security deposit. You’ll most likely have to replenish the security deposit down the road, and the landlord may try to increase the amount of the security deposit because you’re now viewed as risky.
While you do have rental laws to protect your rights in court, you should try to resolve disputes with your landlord first. Write your request for major and minor repairs, briefly stating the problem with your signature and the date of your letter. Follow up as many times as is reasonable, depending on the severity of the situation. Legal action should be your last resort.