What to do if Your Rental Unit is Not Livable?

It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide a safe and healthy rental property where his tenants may live. However there are conditions when a rental unit not livable and it is not how the tenant pictured the property the first months or years that they rented the unit. What does a tenant do if their rental unit is not livable anymore? How does he inform the landlord that there are maintenance repairs that need to be done?

First of all, the term “not livable” could mean differently from one tenant to another. One tenant could deal with a dripping roof while another could not stand a small rat in the kitchen. Each state has a specific rental law regarding the rights of tenants and the responsibilities of a landlord. These are contained in a rental law site that you can look up in the internet.

If you are a tenant and you think that the rental unit that you are residing is an inhabitable rental or in no way ideal for living then you should do the following:

  1. Inform your landlord of the major repair or damage, this is of course in the light that you still want to remain in the property (you have no intention to move). You should write a formal letter that contains an itemized list of what seems to be wrong in the rental unit.
  2. You should ask your landlord to inspect the property in person and to bring a contractor to check on the repairs as soon as possible.
  3. You should take photos or videos of the major repair that you are referring to. These could be a video of a leaking roof while it is raining outside, a video or a photo of a large rat or wild animal in the house (a raccoon, hornet or bees’ nest, etc.) a photo of a flooded basement and so many more. The more evidence you can collect the better.
  4. You should ask a witness to check on the actual incident. She could attest by writing or by appearing when the landlord pays a visit to inspect the property.
  5. You should check your rental contract for any clauses regarding your problem or condition. If the landlord does not make himself available to check on the emergency or the situation that you claim to make the rental unit not livable in a given amount of time then you could decide to move or you may settle this in court.

Tenants that have been a victim of a robbery or a break-in could also find their rental unit unsafe for them and for their family. Tenants may secure a copy of a police report regarding the incident, the money or the valuables that were lost (if any) and photographs of where the intruder managed to sneak into the property. These should be immediately addressed to the landlord and to meet with him regarding any arrangements, repairs or if the tenant decides to move out.

If you decide to move out due to the condition in your rental property then you should notify your landlord that you are moving right away. Usually there is a required 30 day written notice from the tenant however, if the situation is indeed dangerous to the tenant and his family then the 30 day notice period should be overlooked. The landlord and the tenant should settle for the date when the tenant security deposit will be returned along with an itemized list of any deductions. Requests and agreements should all be done in writing.