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Useless Landlord: What Tenants Can Do When Repairs Go Unattended

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 16 May 2017 10:10

Those who live in a rental maintained by a landlord with whom they have open communication have it quite good. They have a great relationship with the landlord or superintendent, and they see any of their complaints taken care of quickly. However, hundreds of renters across the U.S. deal with not so good landlords on a monthly basis. Many cannot get landlords to address their concerns or make needed repairs. Here are some options for what tenants can do when repairs go unattended.

Put Requests in Writing

While most tenants start with an oral request for maintenance, this may go unnoticed by a majority of landlords. In this case, tenants should have their requests put into writing to ensure that they have a record should the case go to court. Ideally, the request should be sent by certified mail, and tenants should keep a copy themselves.

Get a City Inspector

Tenants who believe that their landlords are in violation of a city or state code should contact the city to get an inspector from the Housing Preservation and Development Department or the Department of Health out to the unit. If a violation is issued, the landlord will need to get it repaired or be in violation of code.

Use Civil Litigation

Tenants who do not believe that they are being treated fairly can sue their landlords in civil court. Cases in which the landlord is in violation of the law are particularly easy to solve and these individuals will not even need a lawyer to stand in Housing Court. Professionals, like those at Hart Law Offices, PC, know that one part of his type of lawsuit will include a city inspector visiting the rental unit for inspection. Tenants who have the city on their sides will be safe in withholding rent. Withholding rent will often get the landlord’s attention better than anything else could.


When all else fails, tenants may want to make the repair themselves. They can send paperwork showing the cost of the repair to the landlord and either withhold the amount from the rent or ask for a reimbursement.

Of course, not many of these options will help to build a wonderful relationship between a tenant and a landlord. If the rental situation is really that terrible, perhaps it would be best to find a new unit anyway. However, these options should help tenants find a way to make their rental units habitable and safe for the time being and will keep landlords in compliance with the law.

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Rachelle Wilber

Rachelle Wilber is a former real estate agent now turned freelance writer that specializes in home realty, mortgage, and building. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Media Studies.

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