What to do if 3 days ago my pipes froze and I have been without water in my house ever since?

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What to do if 3 days ago my pipes froze and I have been without water in my house ever since?

My landlord is unconcerned, refused to call a plumber when I asked and said I would “just have to wait for a warmer day”. I feel certain that the pipes aren’t inside the house, but perhaps underneath, because the home was at a warm temperature when it happened and we’ve had space heaters on the pipes ever since. This started out as a mild inconvenience, but now I cannot cook, clean dishes, shower or even use my bathroom, and moreover, I’m afraid a pipe will burst and I will be responsible for hundreds of dollars on my waterbill. Is there anything I can do?

Asked on January 25, 2013 under Real Estate Law, West Virginia

Answers:

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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First of all, you need to contact the housing code enforcement authority in your area. They can fine and take other action against your landlord until they resolve the problem. Further, at this point since 3 full days have passed with your not having any water and there has been no productive reponse from your landlord, this may be a case of "constructive eviction". If you have to move out you may a legal claim for any costs you incur (such a hotel; extra travel time; storing belongings; etc.). Further, you can also get a court order allowing you to move back in after the situation has been corrected. Finally, there is the possibility to recover your attorney's fees. You may also be entitled to other remedies, depending upon your state's laws.

At the very least, this is a situation of the breach of the "warranty of habitability". This is an implied guarantee in every residential lease that provides for a tenant to be given a sanitary and safe premises. For such a breach you have certain rights; Again, you can terminate your lease, withhold rent until the repair is made or make the repair yourself and the deduct the cost from your rent.

However, before pursuing any of these remedies you should consult with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant matters. If you attempt any of the above self-help measures you must be certain of your legal rights under applicable state law.


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