If I am renting a buillding for a business but the landlord refuses to do any repairs, am I still obligated to pay him rent?

I am renting the building for a daycare. The basement, which I do not use for the children, has been flooding every time it rains for the last 7 months. I have asked him numerous times to get this fixed, as the water brings mold and mildew into the building. My storage is down there, so every time it rains, I have to clean and sanitize everything before it can be used again. I have had 3 estimates on how much it would cost to remedy this problem; the landlord continues to tell me he is going to get to it fixed on his own time because of the cost.

Asked on May 29, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Kentucky

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

The landlord does not have the option of fixing it "on his own time":

1) If you are renting the space, but are effectively denied its use due to the flooding, the landlord is breaching the lease;

2) Landlords must provide rental premises which are fit for their intended purpose, but mold and mildew conditions, which can affect health, can violate this "implied warranty of habitability";

3) When the landlord fails to remedy a condition after notice of it, he can be liable for any losses or costs the tenant incurs (like cleaning/sanitizing costs).

You have the right to have the use of all the space you rent, to not have your possessions stained or damaged, and to have safely habitable space. The best way to vindicate this right, however, would not be by withholding rent, since to do so would be for you to violate your own lease obligations, potentially giving him the right to evict you (and even though you could potentially ultimately prevail and successfully defend yourself on the basis of the landlord's breach, you don't want to be in the  position of being evicted and having to fight it), but rather to bring a legal action against the landlord. You would sue for a court order ("injunction") directing him to fix the problem, as well as for monetary compensation for the time you've been living with the leak. A landlord-tenant attorney can help you with this.


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