We've all been there: something is broken in your apartment, and your landlord won't take care of it. What are your options? Turns out you have several, as long as the repair is legally your landlord’s responsibility. Requirements do vary from state to state, but anything related to plumbing, heat, and electricity is always up to them. Below are the best ways to encourage your landlord to make a repair.
At this point, you’ve probably already asked your landlord to make a repair via the normal channels like text or email. It’s time to try something a little more formal. Write a letter requesting the repair, and send it to your landlord with return receipt requested. This may be enough to force your landlord into action. If your landlord doesn’t respond within the deadline set by your state’s laws, you’ll have to switch tactics.
The legal term for this is "repair and deduct," and it’s allowed in most states. You can hire someone to make the necessary repairs and then subtract the cost from your next rent payment. Generally, however, states cap the amount you can spend on repairs at about one month’s rent—so if the issue you’re dealing with would be way more expensive to fix, you’ll have to find a different solution.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to simply stop paying rent until your landlord fixes the problem. This is called “rent withholding,” and it’s not something to take lightly. It’s not allowed in every state—and even in the places where it’s legal, you have to carefully follow the steps laid out by the law or you could get evicted. It’s a good idea to consult with an attorney or a tenants’ rights group in your area before you try withholding rent.
Sue your landlord for damages
Suing your landlord in small claims court is actually pretty easy to do in some cities and states. Once they’ve received notice that you've filed a suit, it may be the push they need to finally make the repair. Although this may seem like a drastic measure, keep in mind that if you withhold rent, there’s a good chance your landlord might try to evict you for nonpayment of rent—and you’d end up in court anyway.
Technically, this isn’t even a way to get your landlord to make a repair. This is what you do when it’s become clear that your landlord will never fix the issue—or your apartment has become dangerous or life-threatening. If you’ve followed all the rules about informing your landlord of the problem and given them an appropriate amount of time to make a repair, then the laws in your state may allow you to leave your rental and break the lease. This is considered “constructive eviction”—by refusing to make necessary repairs, your landlord has effectively evicted you, even though they didn’t formally file an eviction.
However, constructive eviction is a slippery legal concept. We’d recommend finding a legal expert—either an attorney or a tenants’ rights group—to help you navigate this process if you decide to move forward.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.