Nearly all states protect the renter's right to a livable home. And if your landlord refuses to provide a livable space in exchange for your rent, many tenants have the right to make certain remedies.
One of these is known as the right to repair and deduct. This means you can make the necessary repairs and deduct them from your monthly rent payment without legal reprisal from the landlord. But to avail yourself of this right, you must also follow its rules. Here are five important things to know and do first.
1. You Must Try to Work with the Landlord
Taking matters into your own hands is a last resort rather than a first option. In order to qualify to handle things yourself, you must prove that you first attempted in good faith to get the landlord to take action. Document all conversations and attempts at finding another solution.
2. The Problem Must Imperil Health and Safety
To qualify for an emergency remedy like 'repair and deduct', the problem must be putting the home's habitability at risk. States define this differently, but the general rule of thumb is that it must risk the tenants' health or safety. This could include broken heaters, lack of hot water, unstable structures, leaks and flooding, and security against reasonable threats.
3. You Can Make Repairs Yourself
Are you or a family member a handy worker? Then states generally allow you to complete the work yourself if you have the skills. This is a great time- and money-saver where it can be used. Deduct the cost of supplies and outside services as well as the market rate of labor time you spent on the repairs.
4. The Deduction Must be Appropriate
The laws allowing tenants to fix a serious problem on their own also recognize that the landlord has the right to a fair charge. So you can't jack up the price of repairs or go all out on exotic materials. Use reasonable but quality services. Many states also limit 'repair and deduct' to less than one month's rent payment.
5. You Must Adhere to State Law
Make sure you do the job — or have the work done — properly. Adhere to building codes and minimum requirements. Use qualified contractors where necessary. If elements need permits, obtain these before doing the work.
Where to Start
If you believe you must use the right to repair and deduct, start by meeting with a qualified landlord/tenant law attorney in your state. They will help you understand your rights and responsibilities according to state law. Make an appointment today.
Contact a tenant/landlord lawyer near you to learn more.