Your Renter’s Rights to Repairs: How To Negotiate Before Signing a Lease

Before signing, it is imperative to negotiate the terms of a lease to address and convey your renter’s rights. Not only does a lease speak to your personal financial agreement, but also it addresses any current and future repairs that might arise throughout the duration of your lease.

The Basic Requirements for Renting Properties

A landlord is obligated to provide a livable environment with the basic necessities. The leased property must be structurally safe and sanitary. It must have functioning heat and electricity, running hot and cold water and sufficient weatherproofing. Working smoke detectors and a lock and key system are basic provisions of renting. There are state and local laws that address these specific requirements for renting.

The Process of Preparing a Lease

The best approach to apartment repairs is to be proactive. Before signing a lease, survey the property and make a list of necessary repairs. Be sure that necessary repairs are specifically listed and detailed in the body of the lease or in an attached addendum. Include reasonable completion dates for each repair. Add a specific statement into the lease, addressing the process to be followed for future repairs, as they arise.

How do you identify necessary repairs to the landlord? Detail the specific request and expectations via telephone, in person or in writing. It is always a good idea to put things in writing and keep a copy of your submission. If there is no action taken on your repair request, within a reasonable time period, know your legal recourse. Involve a mediator, file a formal complaint with the local housing authority and, if necessary, file a small courts claim if your landlord refuses to take action.

Do’s and Don’ts before Signing on the Dotted Line

There are certain expectations on both sides of the lease. What are the renter’s responsibilities? He/she must keep the property clean and in the same physical condition as when the lease was signed. A prime example is pest control, which becomes the responsibility of the renter, if the apartment if found to be poorly cleaned or unsanitary. If the renter refuses to pay the exterminators’ bill, in such a situation, the amount can be deducted from their security deposit.

Discuss cosmetic repairs, but don’t expect the landlord to agree to all of your requests. Landlords are not legally responsible to complete aesthetic renovations, unless they also pose a safety issue. A prime example is requesting that a stained carpet be professionally cleaned; this is an aesthetic request versus asking to have a torn carpet replaced because of a tripping hazard. The tripping hazard will prevail. Get the picture?

Be specific and have a credible foundation for you repair request. Back it up with the health and safety issues and the potential for further progression of the problem. For example, if the problem is fixed now, it will prevent a larger, more expensive repair in the future.

The Lease—Signed, Sealed and Delivered

The most important outcome of a lease negotiation is to protect you, the renter, in the event that a major or minor repair need arises. Be sure to negotiate the mechanics of a repair. Is it always the responsibility of the landlord to provide the physical repair or is there a clause in the lease for the renter to buy the supplies, do the labor and deduct the cost from the rent? These are all key points to negotiate and specifically address in a lease, before signing. Protect the property and protect yourself.

5 Responses to “Your Renter’s Rights to Repairs: How To Negotiate Before Signing a Lease”

  1. November 11, 2011 at 10:00 am, PRADDYDUS said:

    Hi! i’m repost you post: to my @mrulkcis twitter


  2. December 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm, P.Lewis said:

    If that place was so bad, then how can seniors possibly llive there? Kids nowadays smoke cigars. What did you do to stop crime? Did the manager/owner help you any? It doesnt sound like you did.


  3. January 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm, salmeida said:

    What happens when you move into a 55+ facility which is okay until you realize it is 55+ and 55- as long as one tenant is 55 years of age. You come home to find your apartment smells like a forest fire. Upon inquiring, you are told that a factory which is parallel to the property uses a wood burning stove. On windy days, the smoke encircles the building to the degree that you cannot open windows At night you cannot go out for fresh air as the parking area is full of dense smoke odors. There is the running and idling of deisel-fueled vehicles. This is causing severe health issues for me. Am I legally bound to stay here. I am told that the wood-burning stove is legal, however, the chimney is at the level of the 4th floor where I reside. There are tenants with respiratory problems and I am now using prescribed nasal sprays and inhalants. My physician suggested that I move. What are my legal rights?


  4. February 08, 2012 at 3:34 pm, tiffany said:

    i love lynn apartment it is very pritty safe and i am gonna move in thier some day. it met my expectations when i walked in the door. i think the people who complain just look for a place that is gnna wait on you hand and foot not every place is gonna kiss your butt and pull out a red carpet every time you walk.


  5. February 10, 2012 at 4:29 am, Can't Foresee Everything said:

    In the instance that we found an apartment sight unseen 3000 miles away. We really were at the apartment’s mercy that they would have the apartment that we saw on the internet and that it would be move in ready. Hope we don’t every have to do that again.

    We couldn’t argue the fact that some repairs needed to be done, we had just arrived in town with a large truck full of stuff and needed to move in that day. When we first arrived into town and stayed in a hotel three days, we were not showed the apartment we would be renting. Flags went up. What could we do? We had prepaid. They had us in a real situation.


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