Whether Married, Single or Just Living Together, if You’re a Renter You May Want to Know These Tips on Getting Your Landlord to Repair Stuff
Are one of the reasons you have chosen to rent an apartment due to the relative ease with which you can get your landlord to repair stuff? Or maybe you didn’t really give that much thought until your dishwasher broke down, or some tiles fell off the bathroom wall or your kitchen cabinets came off its hinge from overuse or your windows leaked during the last rain. What did you do? Were you one of the fortunate ones who just called the landlord or managing agent and a building maintenance person came to repair or replace it?
What would you do if your landlord was not so responsive to your complaint?
1. Follow Protocol. Some buildings have a protocol for making complaints or reporting problems in your apartment. Find out what that is and follow it. Typically, it may require you to complete a form and give it to the super or inform the landlord or managing agent through the building’s website, or informing the doorman, if your building has one, would be sufficient to report the problem.
2. Write a letter. If there is no protocol or your complaint is not responded to, you may want to write a letter or an email to the Landlord or managing agent. Putting it in writing is always a good idea. It creates a paper trail and also documents the situation you are experiencing.
3. Tip. Approach the super or maintenance person directly and offer to tip them. They may move your apartment to the front of the list of other units in your building also requiring repairs or your repair may be completed better.
4. Dial 311. If you’ve attempted to get your landlord’s attention using the foregoing methods and your complaint is still not addressed and affects your health and safety (such as vermin, bedbugs, lack of heat or hot water, exposed electrical wires or mold), you may call 311 to report the problem. The City will send an inspector to investigate your complaint and if verified, the City may issue a fine which your landlord will have to pay. While the problem may be fixed, this may affect your relationship with your landlord when it comes time to renegotiate your lease (though you may not want to stay anyway).
5. Withhold Rent. This would be considered a “last resort” option depending upon the severity of the problem you are complaining of. You will want to look at the city’s Housing Maintenance Code to see what the courts would deem to be a serious problem before deciding to withhold any rent. The reason you want to seriously evaluate whether to go this route is because you will likely be brought into court by your Landlord for failing to pay rent and you will need to defend yourself against eviction. If the repair problem is not very serious, you might not prevail and your decision to withhold rent might cost you more than just the rent you didn’t pay and your time spent in court. So consult an attorney before deciding to withhold rent. Other repercussions if you wind up in court, is that you may find it difficult to rent another apartment since many NYC Landlords refuse to rent to someone who has previously been in litigation with another Landlord.
6. Lawsuit. You may want to sue your landlord for failing to comply with the law and sue the City for failing to enforce with the law. You represent yourself or sometimes you can get the court clerks to help you with the papers and court filings so that you don’t need to hire a lawyer to represent you. You will want to have documentation and proof to prove your case such as photographs, copies of any communications to your Landlord advising of the problem and your Landlord’s refusal to repair as well as a list of all of the problems in your apartment. Be careful to list everything that is problematic since the court will only consider those items listed in your complaint. Again, as in withholding rent, you may have difficulty renting another apartment if the landlord finds out that you had a lawsuit against your prior landlord.
7. DIY. Finally, you may want to repair the item yourself and then reduce your next rent payment by the cost of the repair. Before you do that, get an estimate for the repair and send it to your Landlord with a request to repair. If your Landlord refuses or fails to repair it within a reasonable time, you may want pay for the repair yourself and deduct the cost from your next rent payment. There is a good chance that this may resolve your problem, but also, it is possible that your Landlord may decide to bring you to court for failure to pay the full rent. So you need to decide whether you want to just pay for the cost of the repair yourself or repair it and deduct the cost from your next rent payment. You will want to maintain a copy of your receipts in the event that your Landlord brings you to court.
If you could get that darn dishwasher working again, more heat or fix the rodent problem in your apartment, how would that affect your relationship? Try these tips and post your comments and your experiences below.