What to do if I moved into a townhome last month that I rented from an individual but he owner failed to tell us that they had plumbing issues along with a host of others?

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What to do if I moved into a townhome last month that I rented from an individual but he owner failed to tell us that they had plumbing issues along with a host of others?

I have reached out to them and their home warranty company on several occasions, and have not gotten anywhere. The owner does not return phone calls, and the warranty company says they have to talk to the owner. We have no hot water, and the water pressure in the home is very low. The owner will not give me a forwarding address to where they are residing temporarily as they are moving back to Iraq soon, therefore I cannot mail them a certified letter requesting repair. I emailed them one, they did receive it but did not respond. What are my options at this point?

Asked on October 9, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The landlord is violating the implied warranty of habitability, or the obligation, imposed by law on all landlords, to only rent/lease habitable spaces--spaces usable for their intended purpose. A lack of hot water in a residence is a clear violation of this. He also arguably committed fraud by not dislosing the problem. 
You should be entitled to withhold rent due to this breach, until the landlord makes the repairs you might also be granted some rent abatement or credit for the time you have lived without hot water e.g. 10% back on rent. You don't have to send the landlord a certified letter, but do need to communicate with the landlord. Email him again and keep confirmation of delivery restating the issue and stating due to the breach of the implied warranty of habitabilty from having no hot water, you will begin withholding rent until the issue is fixed. When he brings a legal action for nonpayment of rent, you can bring up the habitabiltiy impairment as defense.  Bring the emails you send with the landlord with you. Bring the withheld rent, too--you often have to deposit it in the court--the court holds it until the resolution, then releases the appropriate amount to the landlord i.e. either the full amount, or the amount less some credit for the habitability impairment.
 


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