What to do if my landlord is basically ignoring extensive water damage to my rental home?

I rent a 2-story home. About a week ago, an upstairs water line broke and flooded the home in the bathroom and adjacent bedroom, closet and downstairs into the bathroom, kitchen, and garage. The damage is extensive in that the side of the home has a large crack down it; the carpeting and flooring is damaged and the downstairs ceiling is cracked, bowing, and/or has large gaping holes. The landlord was promptly notified and he sent out someone to “assess” the situation. Since then, they have vacuumed the water from the carpets. Nothing else. The house now smells of mold and my son can’t breathe.

Asked on October 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may have several options here. The fact is that residential leases contain what is called an an implied "warranty of habitability". Essentially, this is a guarantee that gives a landlord gives a tenant to live in a clean and safe premises (i.e. "habitable" premises). Accordingly, if a landlord fails to perform needed maintenance or necessary repairs, a tenant can: 

  1. Repair the problem and then deduct if from their rent;
  2. Terminate the lease and vacate the premises; or
  3. Withhold rent until the completion of the repair(s). 

However, before pursuing any of these self-help measuresan attorney should be consulted.  Failure to follow proper legal procedures result in a tenant being held financially liable.


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