In situations where people are renting property, it’s virtually inevitable a dispute will arise between tenant and landlord. In most cases, this involves the condition of the property, such as unsafe stairs, insufficient water service, a toilet that requires repairs, or other situations. While most of these problems are resolved quite easily, there are times when a landlord does not provide a satisfactory level of service for the tenant. If this happens, here are some important obligations of landlords, as well as rights a tenant has in these matters.
Read Your Lease
Whenever any problem occurs with your landlord, the first thing you should do is read your lease. Since this document should clearly state the responsibilities of the tenant and landlord, it should be easy to understand how repair and maintenance issues will be handled. If for any reason the lease is not clear in this area and you continue to have problems, it may be best to speak with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law.
Warranty of Habitability
For any property owned by a landlord, they have a legal obligation to keep the property safe, sanitary, and habitable. Known as the warranty of habitability, it requires the landlord to ensure the property’s structure is safe and sound, that is has heat, hot water, and electricity, and that it be free of insects, household pests, and rodents.
Tenant Remedies for Breach of Covenant
If a landlord makes inadequate repairs or makes no repairs at all, a tenant does have certain legal rights that can be put into play. However, before pursuing this path, it’s very important to document every aspect of the problem. This can be done by taking pictures and documenting any contact you’ve had with the landlord, along with their response. By doing so, you’ll have evidence that can be used if for any reason you are sued by the landlord, or they attempt an eviction. If at some point you feel the property is uninhabitable, you have such legal options as reducing the rent, choosing to not pay the rent, or providing the landlord with a two-week written notice stating you will terminate the lease if repairs are not made.
Exclusive Rights of Use and Enjoyment
When you pay rent to a landlord, that payment entitles you to an exclusive right to use and enjoy your premises within reason, and without interference of your landlord. In most cases, the landlord may not enter your home without your permission, except in emergency situations. However, if your landlord decides to rent your home to another tenant while you are away, allows other tenants to create a nuisance such as playing loud music, or regularly shows up unannounced at your door to inspect the property, your rights are being violated. If this happens, consult an attorney before making your next move.
By understanding your rights as well as those of your landlord, it’s possible to solve many problems before they get out of hand and require legal action.