What to do when a landlord will not do repairs?

After a hurricane, I received a lot of water damage in my apartment. The landlord neglected to fix the roof’s drainage problem and it flooded. The landlord has done some cosmetic repairs but not the needed repairs. I contacted the building department and they were able to get him to remove the top kitchen cabinet because of mold. He has not removed the bottom cabinets. Mold is growing through my walls. I have sent him 3 certified letters and he ignores me. He told me verbally he has done all he can do for my apartment. I am taking him to court and I have video of the water coming into my unit.

Asked on October 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability which means the landlord is required to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes. The water damage and mold constitute breaches of the implied warranty of habitability because they are health and safety issues which would violate the housing code. When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs.  When the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following remedies:  The tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant decides to stay, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative would be as you are doing to take the landlord to court by filing a lawsuit for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.


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