How long does my landlord have to fixthe fence and pick upa fallen tree?

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How long does my landlord have to fixthe fence and pick upa fallen tree?

In the house I rent 2 large trees have fallen in my yard and smashed my fence (after the recent tornado). My landlord has said she will fix it but has yet to do anything about it. Now it has been 2 weeks and my dogs are able to get out of my yard. What are my options? Can I clean it up and bill her for it? Can I break my lease because of this?

Asked on February 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the landlord does not repair the fence, your best best is to sue him or her for a court order requiring the repair and also potentially seeking some compensation for the time you have not had the fence. That is because you can only break a lease due to a failure to repair or maintain the property if the failure significantly impacts the property's habitability--that is, the failure  makes the property essentially uninhabitable. A broken fence and an inability to leave your dogs in the yard would not even begin to approach that level of impairment.

As for fixing it yourself and deducting the cost from the rent--the "repair and deduct" remedy is also typically available only when the repair must be made to maintain habitability.  Tenants generally cannot withhold or deduct a portion of rent for repairs which do not impact habitability. So again, despite the inconvenience, this situation is most likely not serious enough to support doing this.


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