There are many ways that tenants can get their landlords to fix problems or make repairs to make their rental units healthy and safe. Whether a lawsuit is necessary or not will largely depend on some factors that include which state you live in since state rules vary, if you have not followed some requirements before filing a lawsuit, and the seriousness of the problem.
Before you hire a lawyer or sue your landlord, here are some steps that you can take:
- Check your lease contract and existing rules on the responsibilities of landlords in the area where you live. Review your contract and determine the responsibilities of your landlord regarding repairs. If there are no concrete stipulations or the repair you need is not included in your contract, you need to review the state law. Local housing and state laws entitle tenants to a livable and safe home, especially when it comes to heat and hot water which are considered basic items.
- Identify if your problem is a minor repair concern or a habitability problem. Generally, landlords are mandated by law to be responsible for taking care of things such as a roof leak that can cause stains in the ceiling of your bedroom and damage your furniture when it rains. A problem like this is considered a habitability concern. Your options and the landlord’s responsibilities will vary for major repairs against minor ones.
- Check out what your legal options are in order to encourage your landlord to make the repairs you need. Some options may include moving out without paying additional liability for your rent, repairing first and then deducting cost from your rent, or withholding rent. The options will depend on where you live and the extent of the habitability concern or needed repair. But, before you can use these options, there are certain steps that you should follow. The important thing that you should do is to make your request for repairs in writing and that you keep all communications as you will need them if you end up in court.
In almost all places, you can sue your landlord if the unit you are renting is uninhabitable. And you can sue your landlord whether you move out or not. You can stay in your unit if it is safe, but if your unit has major leaks when it rains then you should move out.
Depending on the laws where you live, you may sue your landlord for losses you have in relation with the uninhabitable premises you are renting. Included are the damaged furniture and bedding in a bedroom caused by a leaky roof, pain and suffering and personal injuries caused by substandard housing conditions. However, you must keep in mind that suing your landlord could be risky. This is especially true if you are on a month-to-month rental agreement.
If you are positive that you will be successful in suing your landlord for a habitability concern, and your lease agreement states that you are entitled to attorney’s fees if you win your case, then you need to hire a lawyer.