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Rent Withholding & Repair and Deduct

This section will explain when and how you may withhold a portion of your rent, and when and how you make repairs to your apartment and deduct it from your rent. Sometimes it may seem like the landlord has all the power. But, if you know your rights you can make the landlord live up to the agreements in the lease and follow city law to keep your apartment fit to live in.

What is my landlord responsible for?

Your landlord has a duty to keep the apartment and the building fit to live in. Your landlord must also do the things agreed to in your lease, including doing all necessary repairs to fulfill these duties.

What repairs must my landlord do to keep the apartment safe?

 

Your landlord has a duty to keep the building in a safe and livable condition. The following things must be in a safe condition according to city law:

·         building structure must be solid and in good condition;

·         foundations, walls, and the roof must be water tight;

·         keep the required locks fixed on the doors and windows;

·         the property must be protected against mice, rats, and other rodents and insects;

·         there must be signs for exits and fire escapes;

·         smoke alarms must be provided, also sprinklers and fire extinguishers where required;

·         hallways and stairways must be kept lighted;

·         windows, outside doors and basement doors must be safe and in good condition;

·         boiler, furnace and chimneys must be in good working order; plumbing and pipes must be kept in good working order;

·         electrical wire and circuits must be safe and operable.

 

What other repairs must the landlord do to make my apartment fit to live in?

 

Your landlord must:

·         keep flush toilet, bathroom basin, bath tub, shower, and kitchen sink in good working condition;

·         supply hot and cold water;

·         supply enough heat as required by city law;

·         supply screens between April 15 and November 15 where required by law;

·         prevent the collection of stagnant water;

·         provide adequate ventilation and light.

 

Must the landlord exterminate?

Yes. Your landlord must exterminate to prevent insects, rats, or pests in the building.  Most landlords consider rodents an emergency and will react quickly.  If not, be sure to point out that infestation of the entire building is not an option.

Must my landlord provide for trash collection?

Yes. Your landlord must provide a place for disposing of trash and garbage.

Does my landlord have to repair the appliances in my apartment?

Yes. If your landlord supplies the appliance, such as the refrigerator, stove, and air conditioner, the landlord must keep them in good working condition.

Can I sue my landlord for failing to make repairs?

Yes. If your landlord does not fix the problem, you can sue for the amount of the costs caused by the failure of your landlord to fix the problem. Or you can sue and try to get an order from the courts requiring your landlord to obey the terms of the lease or maintain the building according to the law. If you sue and win, you can get lawyer’s fees.

When can I repair the problem myself?

If it is a small problem and the reasonable cost of fixing it is less than $500 or one-half (1/2) of your monthly rent (whichever is greater, so long as the total cost is not more than one month’s rent), you can have it fixed yourself and deduct tile cost from your rent.

What must I do before I can have the repairs done myself?

First, you must give your landlord a chance to fix the problem. You must send a written notice telling your landlord about the problem and your plan to have it fixed, if the landlord does not make the repairs within 14 days. Remember to keep a copy of your letter.

What if my landlord does not do the repairs?

After 14 days you can have the work done yourself, but it must be done to the standards of the city law. Then you must give a copy of the paid bill to your landlord along with your reduced rent. For your own protection, you should keep a copy of the paid bill and the original 14-day notice.

What if I caused the damage?

You cannot charge the landlord for damage that you, your family or your guests have caused by being careless.

What if the problem is in part of the building I share with other tenants?

You also have to give notice to all the other tenants of your plan to repair any of the common areas, like stairways or hallways.


What if I want to withhold rent?

You have to let your landlord know four things in writing:

1.       what the problem is;

2.       that you plan to withhold part of your rent;

3.       how much of your rent you plan on withholding; and

4.       that you are allowing the landlord 14 days to fix the problem before you withhold rent.

 

If you want to withhold rent you should give your landlord the notice at least 14 days before your rent is due.


When do I start to withhold rent?

If the problem is not fixed after 14 days, you may then deduct part of the rent for each day after the 14-day deadline until the problem is fixed.

How much should I withhold?

No matter how bad the problem is, you should not deduct 100% of your rent if you are still able to live in the apartment. It is best to deduct a conservative amount from your rent. If you withhold an excessive amount, you may run the risk of being evicted. The law leaves it up to you to decide what is the reduced value of the apartment. You can do this by deciding how much of the apartment cannot be used because of the problem. Remember that your landlord can sue you for the rent you withheld, and a court will then decide if the amount you withheld was reasonable.

What if I withhold or deduct rent in the wrong way?

If you do not give proper notice, or in some way do not follow the correct procedure, you could be responsible for the entire amount of your rent. You could even be evicted, so you should talk to a lawyer before you take any action. It is very important that you follow each step outlined in this section.

Can I end my lease because my landlord has failed to make repairs?

Yes. But the conditions must be more serious than those required to use the other remedies described above and you must be very careful to follow the correct procedure.

How bad do conditions have to be before I may end my lease?

The conditions must render the premises “not reasonably fit and habitable.” This means that several of the repairs needed to keep the apartment safe (listed previously) must not have been made by the landlord. The apartment must be unhealthy and not livable before you may end your lease.

What procedure must I follow to end my lease if the apartment is not reasonably fit and habitable?

You must send your landlord a written notice that explains why you are ending the lease. This notice must state that your landlord has 14 days to fix the problem. If the landlord does not fix the problem in that time, the lease is ended. On the day the lease ends, you have 30 more days to move out. If you don’t move out in 30 days, the lease goes back in effect. If you end the lease, your landlord must return all prepaid rent, security deposit, and any interest due.

 

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