A healthy landlord-tenant relationship is predicated upon good communication. A good working relationship will encourage tenants to make reasonable requests from their landlords. Moreover, tenants may have a legal right to repairs for heating, water, electricity, and plumbing. It is worth learning about the warranty of habitability in your state.
Landlords may also be required to repair appliances if this was stipulated on the lease.
Verify if the Repair is the Landlord’s Responsibility
Try to figure out if the landlord is actually responsible for the repairs. Depending on the warranty of habitability in your state, your landlord may or may not be required to look after certain repairs - regardless of whether they have been mentioned in the lease.
An implied warranty gives renters the right to:
- Have a rental unit free from pest infestation
- Properly functioning plumbing and electricity
- Locked doors and windows
- Smoke detectors
- Heating during the winter
- Access to clean drinking water and hot water
All of these repairs are implied warranties - even if they are not mentioned in the lease.
Secondly, tenants should read their lease for more details on the types of repairs that the landlord has assumed.
The landlord is not responsible for fixing any repairs if the damage was a result of the tenant - or the fault of their guests and pets. It is worth noting that normal wear and tear is not the fault of tenants either. However, accidentally breaking a window when entering a property is.
Take Clear Pictures of the Damage
It is important to take pictures and videos of any damage that is occurring as evidence. If it’s something that can’t be documented by a camera - such as a broken heater or unclean water - then the tenant can use a thermometer or use a lab test. It is highly recommended to document all correspondence with the landlord, especially when reaching out to them for repairs.
If the problem is related to plumbing and electricity - which could be a violation of the warranty of habitability - then the tenant may want to contact their local housing inspectors to inspect the building. They will provide official documentation that will be useful when asking for repairs from landlords. It may also give landlords more incentive to initiate repairs.
Send a Request for Repairs in Writing
If the repairs are minor - such as a broken appliance - then a simple text to the landlord alerting them would suffice. Tenants can use any communication channels they regularly use to get in touch with their landlords, including emails, phone calls, or even an in-person visit. In any case, it is recommended to follow up with the landlord in writing.
Send the Landlord a Letter with a Return Receipt
The tenant may have to use a more formal means of communication to request repairs if their landlord didn’t provide them with an answer. This can be done by sending a written letter through the USPS with a return receipt requested. Tenants can print out all evidence of the damage - including photographic proof - and enclose them with the letter.
If the local housing inspectors were involved, then make sure the letter also includes the identification number of the case. The landlord should be provided with a reasonable period of time to initiate the repairs. During this waiting period, they should carefully document the problem, including any responses they receive from their landlord.
Wait for the Landlord’s response
The landlord’s response to any request for repairs depends on the type of damage and local laws as they relate to implied warranty. Local laws and regulations also vary from state to state. In some cases, the tenant may be able to make the repairs themselves and subtract the cost from the rent - this also depends on the state.
If the problem is serious and affects the quality of living, such as electricity issues or unsafe water, then the tenant may be able to withhold the rent - or abandon the rental unit entirely because it violates the warranty of habitability.
For more information about your landlord’s obligations to the property, get in touch with us today.