What to do if I let my landlord know that the neighbors have been burning garbage and this has gone on for years but they still continue?

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What to do if I let my landlord know that the neighbors have been burning garbage and this has gone on for years but they still continue?

My renters’ insurance documented that this has been a long-term intentional garbage burning which has caused the house to stink, and combined with a flooded basement it has become uninhabitable. I let my landlord know this a year ago. I have been paying rent and the house flooded 6 months go; I contacted him about that but nothing has been done. Can I sue him for anything? I don’t know what to do. Shouldn’t he be responsible for any of this?

Asked on December 10, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In every lease, there is an implied warranty of habitability which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  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.  If the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time, the tenant has the following options:  The tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or the tenant can make the repairs (call someone to repair the flooded basement) and deduct the cost from the rent or if the tenant stays on the premises and repairs are not made, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Another alternative is to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability.  You can also contact the local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for housing code violations.

The situation you described is a health and safety hazard which constitutes a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.

Your neighbors are liable for nuisance for burning garbage resulting in the offensive odor.  If  your neighbors are also tenants, the landlord should evict them for causing this nuisance which is a breach of the lease.  If they are not tenants, the landlord can sue them for nuisance.

You can sue the neighbors for nuisance.  Another alternative would be to contact your city attorney because burning garbage most likely violates a city ordinance.


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